Saturday, October 07, 2006

Shared space presentation and Kings Heath High Street

I attended the ‘Share Space’ presentation in Acocks Green on Wednesday 27th September. Can I apologize for the delay in doing this write-up. I’ve been up to my eye-balls in other Councillor related work, hence the delay.

The event consisted of a series of presentations lasting from 10am till 4.30pm. I only attended the morning session, but this proved to be the most important session since it contained a presentation by the designer behind the Kensington High Street project.

Attending this event with me was Councillor Ernie Hendricks and the Highways Engineers working on the Kings Heath High Street project.

Since, being elected a Councillor in June 2004, I’ve been banging on about the need to apply ‘Kensington High Street’ principles to Kings Heath High Street and Moseley centre.

Ben Hamilton-Baille, the designer behind the Kensington High Street project, did a powerpoint presentation which lasted an hour. I can honestly say that it was the best powerpoint presentation I’ve ever seen – Al Gore’s climate change presentation came a close second.

The presentation used photographs and animation to convey his ideas. It was funny (I laughed out loud several times), intelligent and inspiring.

The point that Ben Hamilton-Baille was making was that since 1960, Britain’s High Street have become both ugly and unfriendly due to our obsession with keeping cars and pedestrian separate. He argued against this by using the idea of a car driving around a busy camp-site. All cars drive slowly around camp sites, because the car driver is aware that people are running around and they could be run over.

There are two aspects that Ben gets over:
1) the need to de-clutter our High Streets – our High Streets are covered in a rash of street signs and road markings that make the place look a mess. Reduce these to a minimum
2) design the High Street so that there is a blurring of the demarcation between the road and the pavement. Car drivers will automatically slow down. It will make the High Street more friendly and pleasing to use.

Ben said that prior to the Kensington High Street project, there was resistance from various safety organizations and the bus companies who claimed there would be chaos. Since it introduction, there has been no increase in road accidents and buses are getting from one end of the High Steet to the other end quicker.

Photos of Kensington High Street can be seen here:

If readers are keen, I am happy to get Ben Hamilton-Baillie to do his presentation again in either Moseley or Kings Heath.


At 7:20 PM, Blogger Ben Hamilton-Baillie said...

Gosh, I'm flattered! Glad to hear such positive feedback, and I hope I get a chance to return to speak in Birmingham soon.
Just for the record, I was not the designer of Kensington High Street (which was done by "The Project Centre"). I do provide some advice to RBKC on shared space schemes, but Ken High Street was before my time. A very inspiring example of good street design, though - one of the best in the UK!


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