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More towns considering shared space schemes

Staines could follow in Ashford’s footsteps and introduce shared space.

The Middlesex town is one of a handful of UK places considering adopting the concept, where traffic and people mix and pedestrians and motorists have equal priority.

Ashford’s scheme in Bank Streek and the Elwick Road section of the ring road is the largest such scheme in the country.

But being the country’s Shared Space guinea pig has not been without its problems and many in Ashford have criticised the scheme and questioned its safety.

But supporters of the Ashford scheme predicted it would create a blueprint for other towns to copy and now councils in Staines in Middlesex and Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire are interested in adopting the shared space approach.

Hereford is also understood to be considering the concept and planners in Edinburgh are being urged to follow suit.

Mark Barrow, chief executive of Newcastle Borough Council, told the town’s civic society: “An example of a good shared space project exists in Ashford in Kent where they have reduced a road similar to Barracks Road to single carriageway, reduced the speed limit to 20mph, removed the clutter of railings and many signs and resurfaced the highway in a more pedestrian-friendly manner.”

In Edinburgh, planners are being urged to adopt a shared space approach by a campaigner for improved public spaces Keith Irving, the Scotland manager for national pedestrians’ charity Living Streets.

In an article for Scottish Parliament magazine Holyrood, Mr Irving writes: “The principles that shared space represents, currently being implemented in Ashford, Kent, are what we want to see here, that is the balance and the realisation of our streets are not just about movement, they’re also about place, and they affect everyone’s quality of life.”

Judith Armitt, managing director of Ashford’s Future, the agency overseeing Ashford’s growth, said she welcomed news that other local authorities were considering following in the town’s footsteps.

She said: “Our scheme has made the town centre more attractive to residents and visitors and it’s helping to unlock the commercial development potential of Ashford.”

Urban design expert Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who was involved in Ashford’s Shared Space project said it had generated “a huge amount of interest” among towns and cities throughout the country.

He said: “Places like Hereford have looked at Ashford’s example and have been impressed by the results.

“No other council has ever adopted such an ambitious urban renewal scheme to tackle the blight of a ring road and it’s a brave decision.”

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