Updates on disabled access coming soon, minister says


Key developments in updating the Government’s approach to disabled transport and public realm access are due by the end of March.

Transport minister Andrew Jones announced a planned accessibility action plan is due in draft form ‘within the next few weeks’ for consultation, while a Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) report on shared space is due next month.

Shared space scheme in Bournemouth

The action plan would cover both public transport and the public realm and will include cognitive impairment issues for the first time, Mr Jones told MPs on the Women and Equalities Committee.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has pledged since at least 2013 to review its Inclusive Mobility guidance, first published in 2005. A spokesman told Transport Network last summer that the action plan was scheduled for 2016 and would set out ‘what the scope of the review would entail’.

Speaking to Transport Network, Mr Jones declined to say whether the action plan would still provide this scope.

Mr Jones revealed a CIHT report on the long running issue of shared space is due next month and explained the recent confusion over the nature of the report.

It was originally intended to be guidance but ‘they basically came to the conclusion there were gaps in the knowledge and evidence around shared space’, which made them move towards the less stringent level of recommendations.

‘If we need to fill knowledge gaps that’s what we will be working on,’ Mr Jones told MPs.

In written evidence, CIHT called on the Government to ‘commission detailed research into the differing needs of people with physical and mental impairments, including how the needs of different groups should be balanced’.

Mr Jones said not all shared space schemes had failed. Where they have, he appeared to blame their design and implementation, overseen by councils, while supporting the current shared space guidance, Local Transport Note (LTN) 1/11, which was released in 2011.

‘I think the points LTN 1/11 makes about ensuring disabled voices are heard in new developments are still true. But I will certainly review the note in light of the recommendations [from CIHT] when I find out what they are.

‘I think 1/11 is working but is failing in some areas of execution. That’s why this work will provide complementary advice - this is what good looks like, that’s what bad looks like, don’t make the mistakes that these councils have made.’

The minister also dismissed suggestions that the DfT should implement a moratorium on shared space schemes, first proposed by the anti-shared space campaigner, Lord Holmes.

Committee chair Maria Miller asked why the Government didn’t allow the moratorium, considering the CIHT’s point that there were gaps in the knowledge base needed to inform new guidance.

Mr Jones suggested the term shared space was so wide-ranging that a moratorium could effectively result in a ban on all public realm improvements.

He said: ‘We can’t really say there will be no works on the urban realm while we work this out. Councils are working all over the country to improve their urban environment. I don’t think we should be stopping them doing it. This is a headline of a type of approach towards urban development and people are using it in different ways and it is not really defined.’

Anti-shared space campaigners accused Mr Jones of 'trying to muddy the waters'.

A CIHT spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that CIHT are working with a number of stakeholders including the Department for Transport to produce a series of recommendations and will be presenting our findings later this year.'


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