A ‘SHARED space’ talk in Minehead last week split residents’ opinions as they listened to urban design consultant Ben Hamilton-Baillie.
The talk, explaining the concept of shared space, was attended by over 70 residents and showed some successful shared space areas, such as Poynton and Exhibition Road, London.
Mr Hamilton-Bailie said radical changes in shopping habits meant all town centres had to become places people wished to visit to enjoy the experience.
Shared space is defined as space where pedestrians and vehicles use the same space with no road signs or kerbs. with different designs, such as making roads appear narrower.
Mr Hamilton-Baillie said: “The only way you’ll make a street safe is by making it as dangerous as possible.
“In shared spaces, drivers are often more alert because the perception of risk is greater, so accident rates are lower.”
It is also hoped that if Minehead was to adopt a shared space concept it would encourage more visitors to the area and greater public footfall.
Mr Hamilton-Baillie said: “In Brighton, New Road was an area where very few pedestrians went, and as a result businesses were closing.
“Brighton City Council transformed it into a shared space, integrating public seating, tables and chairs for restaurants, and lighting
. “Things have vastly improved – there’s a 93% reduction in motor vehicles and an increase in cyclist and pedestrian usage.”
Mr Hamilton-Baillie said an area such as Minehead would benefit from shared space, particularly between the promenade and the town centre.
He said: “There are no direct link between the two, and visitors are left wondering where the town starts.
“There are fantastic and odd buildings around Minehead, so why not do something with the space which reflects that?
“The way we treat our streets and buildings is bizarre, as if their link is not important.”
After the talk, residents asked questions and raised concerns.
A recurring issue was crossings for the blind and their dogs.
The point raised was that dropped kerbs help guide dogs and their owners because when the dog steps down the harness on the dog makes a downward movement, warning the owner about the kerb.
A resident who attended with his guide dog said a shared space concept in Minehead would disrupt his day.
He said: “My dog has been trained to understand where I want to go.
“He knows the route I make every day off by heart, but if there were no kerbs it would mean I couldn’t use that route.”
Concerns were also raised about the amount of money it would cost when residents felt other things in the town needed to be addressed first.
However, the majority were keen to learn more about the design concept and how it would work in Minehead.
Minehead already has three shared space areas, including the area between the train station and the Beach Hotel.