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Accessibility and inclusivity ought to be key to the design of urban spaces

CATHERINE Ward Thompson makes vital points in regard to the redesign of George Square (Letters, January 12).

As professor of landscape architecture at Edinburgh University she should be taken very seriously. She covered the same ground in her keynote speech at the Open Space, People Space conference in Edinburgh in 2011; that public spaces such as George Square should be geared towards human beings; that design should facilitate inclusiveness and should be accessible to all.

The themes of sustainability and age-friendly built environments from childhood to old age provided a template for all public space.

But there is a huge disparity between the awareness of access issues at the academic level and its implementation, or lack of it, in Scotland's urban spaces. The designs for George Square don't show any sign of redressing this discrepancy and follow the established architectural practice of prioritising cosmetic changes over human rights. Some of the designs look nice, especially from space. But how would they encourage active travel and community interaction?

Our charity, Free Wheel North, provides outdoor activity, principally cycling, for people with disability, and while we enjoy our centre on Glasgow Green, we are largely confined to there because of the poor quality of access in the wider city. The fundamental principle of enlightened street design consists of removing obstacles; barriers, bollards, kerbs, railings and signs, providing opportunities for social interaction, while consigning motor vehicles to the lower leagues.

Existing design ensures that not only the disabled, but pedestrians and cyclists are sent around gigantic diversions so that high-speed traffic can tear around the city centre. And this herding of people has intensified in recent years thanks to a proliferation of barriers. They not only negate fundamental rights of disabled access, they are a major cause of obesity and disability themselves as they discourage human-powered movement.

The 2014 legacy for George Square should be the creation of a healthy environment worthy of the Openspace research centre at Edinburgh University. This will impress the world more than allowing the square to become a canvas for the ego of artists and architects.

Norman Armstrong,

Manager, Free Wheel North,

3/1 47 Braeside Street,

Glasgow.

WHY are the city fathers planning to abuse George Square for the short-term benefit of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, destroying the city's traditions and fine Victorian townscape, in support of a temporal initiative ironically said to be founded on the ambition of creating legacy?

Why do we not just create a large, new, modern multi-purpose public space on the vacant site of the old Glasgow Meatmarket? It would create the final link between the city and the splendid if slightly faded architectural grandeur of Dennistoun, revitalise George Street, the Gallowgate and the East End, and retain Glasgow's iconic centre for future generations.

Think outside of the box, or at least outside of the square, Glasgow.

Robert Bennie,

Clayslaps Road,

Glasgow.

I NOTE the calls for a public consultation to choose a new layout for George Square.

You may like to know that Dundee City Council held a much-publicised consultation to pick the design of the new V&A Museum. It spoiled it a bit by announcing the winning design three days before the consultation ended.

Ray Russell,

13 Byron Crescent,

Dundee.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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