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Pedestrians and vehicles to share space in Kent transport scheme

Kent County Council is drawing up proposals for the largest ever 'shared space' transport scheme in Britain, to be built in Ashford.

The move - which is being drawn up in-house at the council - would see pedestrians share two new thoroughfares with bicycles, cars, taxis and buses.

These routes will replace the town's existing ring-road, which is being removed as part of the government's growth strategy for the area.

The 'shared surface' concept is based on the idea that if all pavements, barriers, street markings and pedestrian crossings are removed, all users of the urban fabric will have to take account of one another.

The idea was first proposed in the Netherlands in the '70s but has slowly been coming to the fore in recent years in the UK. However, the only other place where authorities have formally adopted it is Exhibition Road in west London.

The scheme's supporters claim it will lead to slower traffic, more considerate road users and therefore fewer accidents. They often quote figures that show accidents can be reduced by up to 47 per cent - compared to 35 per cent for more conventional plans.

The council's Richard Stubbings, who is pushing through the Shared Space idea, said: 'Our thinking for this project is that roads no longer simply lead to places; they are places in themselves.

'The Ashford scheme will make sure that our streets are not only functional, but also an important part of the public realm: places where communities can gather, socialise and play.

'We feel we are creating a benchmark for some universal issues that growing towns face,' Stubbings added.

by Ed Dorrell

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