COTSWOLD MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown has condemned the redevelopment of Cirencester Market Place, having delivered a petition against shared spaces to 10 Downing Street last week with several blind campaigners.

“It is now absolutely clear that sufficient time has passed that the redesign of the Market Place was flawed,” said the long-standing Member of Parliament.

The delegation of blind people, which included Cirencester resident Oliver Stevenson, came from across the country, headed to the capital last Tuesday.

The group then posted a letter through Prime Minister Theresa May’s door calling for government to urgently implement the recommendations of Women & Equalities Select Committee report on shared spaces.

Cirencester’s £1.3m regeneration scheme, which was completed after 12 months in February, has been criticised following a series of accidents and near misses – including the lowered ‘invisible’ kerbs which have proved a trip hazard.

Mr Clifton-Brown has called on the three local councils to have a radical rethink about how the Market Place could be remodelled before a fatality occurs.

“Having guided my constituent, Oliver Stevenson, for about half a mile from College Green to Downing Street across numerous junctions and avoiding many hazards, it brought it home to me in no uncertain way how difficult life is for blind and partially sighted people,” he said.

“Huge reliance and trust has to be placed on their highly trained guide dogs who in turn have to be able to assess what is safe or not.

“They rely on kerb stones, edges of buildings and audio-assisted crossings to do this.

“All of these are unclear or missing in Cirencester Market Place and that is why I will be writing to the leaders of the Town, District and County Council to conduct an urgent review as to whether to reinstate proper kerbs to provide a clear separation between the road and pavement to prevent the continuing stream of accidents or, even worse, a fatality.”

Also in the delegation was Michael Pringle, the father of three-year-old Clinton who was killed after being struck by van on a shared space in Jersey in June 2016.

Sarah Gayton, a film-maker and campaigner against shared spaces, documented the groups’ trip and said told the Standard Cirencester’s shared space scheme is “one of the worst I have seen”.

“It can be misleading. At certain times of the day it is very quiet, but then can get very chaotic very quickly. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Referring to shared spaces on a whole, Sarah said: “Urgent action needs to be taken to stop the horrendous accidents happening.”

Andrew Tubb, chief executive officer of Cirencester Town Council said: "The shared space scheme in Cirencester promotes the concept of vehicles being less dominate in the historic heart and retail centre of Cirencester.

"The town council engaged early on with local people and those representing a range of access groups and it was agreed to incorporate kerbs and formal zebra crossings in response to mobility concerns."

Mr Tubb went on to say that "keeping to a long held promise which was made earlier this year" a meeting was held on August 18, with local residents who had expressed concern about access. 

The meeting also included the Guide Dogs for the Blind, Sarah Gayton of the National Federation for the Blind and Cirencester and South Cotswolds Access Group and the police.

He said: "The meeting was positive and forms part of an on-going commitment to work in a constructive way with those who are concerned about access issues."

Mr Tubb said further meetings are to be convened and will include:

  • design exemplars from other towns;
  • improving access to public consultation and engagement;
  • how the issues highlighted in the road safety audit are to be addressed;
  • improving access and safety for all pedestrians and cyclists across the town centre, not just in the Market Place;
  • drafting the outline for a new section in the town council’s recently published design code, to better inform future designs and planning applications.