The minister for disabled people is calling on her own government to take “urgent action” to address concerns about the dangers of “shared space” street developments.
Sarah Newton called for action in letters she wrote to both the minister for transport accessibility, Nusrat Ghani, and the housing, communities and local government secretary, James Brokenshire.
Since she wrote the letters, the government’s accessible transport advisory body, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), has also spoken out on shared space.
DPTAC has issued a position paper in which it is heavily critical of the government’s current position and calls for an immediate halt to all further shared space developments.
Newton met in parliament with disabled campaigners on 24 April, the same day that nine separate petitions about the dangers of shared space street designs were handed in to Number 10.
In Newton’s letter to Ghani, she calls for urgent action by the Department for Transport (DfT) to produce new guidance for local authorities that would warn them they risk breaching the Equality Act if they “deliberately install an area that prejudices disability inclusion”.
DPTAC says in its position paper that DfT’s current guidance is “widely argued to be inadequate and in need of fundamental revision” and calls on the government to “take a lead role in the shared space agenda”.
And it calls for “detailed independent evaluation” of all existing shared space developments, with the involvement of disabled people.
It adds: “The implementation of shared space schemes should be paused, until the independent evaluation referred to above has taken place.”
DPTAC also calls on the government to ensure advice is “readily available” so campaigners can challenge local authorities on “existing or new shared space schemes which exclude or have the potential to exclude disabled people”.
Shared space schemes often remove kerbs and controlled crossings from a street, encouraging vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists to share the same space, posing greater risks for partially-sighted and blind people, as well as other disabled people, including many of those who are neuro-diverse, or have mobility impairments, learning difficulties or are deaf.
Last September, campaigners from across the country gathered outside parliament to call for an end to unsafe shared space street designs, which they said risked turning public spaces into “no go zones” for many disabled and older people.