Shared spaces used by both pedestrians and drivers should be scrapped and the concept rethought, while local plans should be rejected if they fail to address disabled access to housing and public places, MPs on the women and equalities select committee have said.
Government guidance issued in 2011 said shared spaces sought to regulate relations between motorist and pedestrians by behaviour rather than hard infrastructure such as bollards and kerbs.
This guidance noted: “Shared space schemes have become increasingly popular with councils wanting to regenerate local high streets.”
Shared spaces have though proved controversial, with claims that they are unsafe for disabled people.
The committee’s report Building for Equality: Disability and the Built Environment, published today, said: “Shared spaces schemes are a source of concern to many disabled people across the country, particularly features such as the removal of controlled crossings and kerbs and inconsistency in the design of schemes from place to place.”
It said the government should halt these schemes and develop new guidance with the involvement disabled people.
The report also said planning inspectors should refuse to find proposed local plans ‘sound’ if they lacked evidence of addressing disabled people’s access to housing and public spaces, and that planning consent should only be given where there was sufficient provision for accessibility.
Although the Equality Act 2010 required reasonable adjustments for disabled people in workplaces, public buildings, and public places, it was “not having the kind of impact that it was expected to have: the government has left change to be achieved through a model of enforcement that relies on litigation by private individuals”, the report said.
The committee’s Conservative chair Maria Miller said: “The burden of ensuring that an accessible environment is achieved falls too heavily at present on individual disabled people – an approach which is neither morally nor practically sustainable.
“Instead, we need a proactive, concerted effort by ‘mainstream’ systems and structures – including national and local government and built environment professionals – to take on the challenge of creating an inclusive environment.”
The Department for Transport declined to comment due to pre-election purdah.