Report from Ashford UK.
Where Ashford leads in urban planning and street design, others follow – that seems to be the message after it was revealed that more than a dozen UK towns are also adopting shared space concepts to help improve their streetscapes.
Last month it was reported that Staines, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Hereford and Edbinburgh were all considering redesigning their urban streets using the principles of shared space which have been successfully introduced in Ashford over the past year.
Now further research has shown that more than 12 other UK cities and towns are also interested in adopting the shared space concept.
These include Oxford, the Suffolk towns of Felixstowe and Ipswich, Poynton and Macclesfield in Cheshire, Torquay and Babbacombe in Devon, Stromness on Orkney, two separate locations in Blackpool, the Essex town of Colchester and various sites in Dorset.
Local authorities in most of these locations are believed to be in the early stages of design development as part of local regeneration projects; however Blackpool Council is about to begin construction work on a shared space scheme covering two sites in the bustling seaside resort.
New Inn Hall Street, in the heart of Oxford’s congested city centre, has been earmarked for redevelopment using a shared space approach similar to that adopted in Ashford.
In November, Ashford completed the first phase of its award-winning shared space project to transform its 1970s ring road into quality, two-way streets in which drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have equal priority. The scheme has opened up the town centre to make it more attractive to residents, businesses and visitors.
The £15.6m scheme has been implemented by Kent County Council and forms part of a £2.5bn public and private sector investment programme for Ashford.
Unnecessary street furniture, road markings and traffic lights have been removed and the speed limit cut to 20mph. Road surfaces have been replaced with high-quality materials, wider footpaths and low kerbs, to create a distinctive streetscape, while artists are transforming the public space along the road into an attractive tree-lined environment.
Judith Armitt, managing director of Ashford’s Future, the agency overseeing Ashford’s growth programme, said she was delighted that the town had created a blueprint for other towns to follow. “The scheme has made our town centre more attractive to residents and visitors and it’s playing a vital role in unlocking the commercial development potential of Ashford.”
Kent County Council Leader Paul Carter said: “The scheme looks absolutely fantastic. It’s just what Ashford needs. It’s very modern and contemporary, and very well designed. This is the first stage. We have got to build other highway schemes when we get the funding from the Government or developer contributions.
“It’s a completely different experience. It’s a shared space where people change their behaviours – both motorists and pedestrians. The professionals say it does make drivers and pedestrians more cautious and has worked in other countries.”
Urban design expert Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who was involved in the shared space project in Ashford, said he was not surprised that so many town planners were waking up to the potential of using the shared space approach to revitalise their public places.
“While it is true that no two schemes or circumstances are ever alike when comparing the needs of different places, planners in town halls across the UK are beginning to realise that designing street projects based on shared space principles is the way forward.”