The Women and Equalities Committee has launched an inquiry into the accessibility of the built environment, including controversial shared space highways schemes.
The move comes after a powerful anti-shared space campaign spearheaded by Conservative peer Lord Holmes and activist and filmaker Sarah Gayton, with the support of the National Federation of the Blind of the UK.
Campaigners at Number 10
Transport Network recently reported that the movement had taken a petition to Number 10, and brought forward what it called ‘concrete evidence’ from Freedom of Information requests, showing that ‘misinformation is being provided on these schemes’.
As well as disabled access issues, MPs will also look at accessibility in the context of an aging population and the design of more age-friendly towns and cities.
Committee chair Maria Miller said: ‘This area raises some interesting questions, and there is a great deal of scope for innovation. For example: how can building information modelling and modern methods of construction, contribute to making environments more accessible and inclusive?
‘How can we deliver greater accessibility and inclusivity alongside more age-friendly towns and cities, including liaison with the NHS? To what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved? We need to ensure that buildings and public spaces are as accessible and inclusive as possible, and that communities can fully engage with the process of decision making that shapes the accessibility of the built environment.’
Ms Gayton told Transport Network: 'This is a golden opportunity and a fundamental game-changer to help make the UK fully accessible for all its people.
'I am glad that the inquiry is not just focussed on shared space because there are many problems in accessibility in this country. And if we get this right we can help the whole world on this issue.'
The scope of the inquiry covers homes, public buildings, commercial premises and the public realm - publicly owned streets, pathways, right of ways, parks, publicly accessible open spaces and any public and civic building and facilities.
Public transport however was left out of the inquiry to ‘keep the scope manageable’.
MPs have asked for written evidence on a wide range of issues, including:
- Are the needs of all groups given adequate consideration in the design of streets, highways, parks and publicly accessible open spaces and in the provision of services such as public toilets?
- To what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved?
- What opportunities are there for delivering greater accessibility and inclusivity alongside more age-friendly towns and cities, including liaison with the NHS?
- How effectively are communities able to engage with the process of decision making that shapes the accessibility of the built environment? Are there any barriers to effective public engagement and if so, how might these be addressed?
- Could local authorities do more through licensing, planning and/or enforcement to increase the accessibility of the built environment?