The Government has clarified certain aspects of its injunction against level surface shared space schemes, although designers and local planners still feel the situation is in limbo.
The Department for Transport's recent Inclusive Mobility Strategy called for local authorities to 'pause the development of shared space schemes, which incorporate a level surface while we review and update guidance'.
In reaction many involved in urban design took to Twitter to suggest the blanket temporary ban went too far and provided so little clarification it could prevent a whole ream of road infrastructure. The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) called for an explanatory note on the issue.
Urban designer, Phil Jones, of Phil Jones Associates, who helped write a recent report on shared space from the CIHT said the move was in danger of throwing the 'baby out with the bathwater'.
He raised concerns that design aspects such as continuous footways, home zones and tabled junctions might be banned under the DfT's wording.
Responding to questions by Transport Network on these and other aspects, DfT officials gave a partial clarification.
They told Transport Network that local authorities were being asked to pause the introduction of new shared space schemes, which incorporate a level surface, and which are at the design stage and it is for authorities and their designers to consider if any aspects of schemes they are planning fall into this description.
The briefing notes passed to Transport Network then go on to say that tactile paving is not a way to allow planners and designers to use a level surface and that low kerbs would create a trip hazard.
The department plans to release further guidance in due course, although there is little expectation in the sector this will come any time soon.
The CIHT report on shared space which provided background to the Inclusive Mobility Strategy, identified kerbs and crossings as key issues for consideration but suggested that more research was needed into the issue.
In response to the DfT's call for a pause, CIHT Urban Design Panel chair Peter Dickinson said he understood the reasons behind the move and as some authorities might not have paid enough attention to their obligations under the Equality Act.
'It now gives an opportunity to carry out work that considers how spaces should be delivered and acknowledges that visually and mobility impaired users have rights that have not always been fully understood in the past.
'Having said that, there will be continuing pressures placed upon local highway authorities and others to continue to deliver these sorts of schemes because the drivers are often economic regeneration, city and town centre redevelopment and better placemaking.
'So the sooner we get some appropriate research and then updated guidance to deliver improvements the better,' he added.
'In the interim, it may be necessary for the Department for Transport to think about an explanatory note to clarify what this request actually means for practitioners in the short term.'