Spaces for People programme

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper last week requested an update from the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, on the Spaces for People programme, a £39 million initiative to identify and provide members of the public with temporary measures to help them walk, cycle and wheel safely in their communities during the covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Harper requested the latest information regarding the initiative during the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee in the Scottish Parliament last Tuesday (1 Sep).

Dumfries & Galloway Council is currently implementing the Spaces for People programme and the local authority has sought feedback from local communities using an interactive, online map where residents have been able to identify areas of the most concern. Whilst the local authority indicate that not all areas will be possible for implementation of the new measures, Dumfries & Galloway Council says they will direct funds to areas which are the most difficult in terms of enabling physical distancing.

Ms Harper asked:

“Are you able to give an update on roll out of the Spaces for People programme… both nationally and in Dumfries and Galloway?”

Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson, responded;

“The Spaces for People programme is to support people to cycle, walk and wheel and to support physical distancing. We’ve now provided £39 million to local authorities across Scotland to take the forward the initiative. A lot of local authorities are at different stages – some have had challenges in implementing it as a result of companies which they use for this type of work having had to take staff off furlough, which has delayed some of the progress they’ve been able to make. Where it has been implemented it had made a real difference.

“It’s of course important that local authorities engage with local communities when they’re introducing these measures and I understand some have met with opposition and concerns from local residents at some of the proposals they have planned to take forward. Local authorities should try to address those concerns and look at amending their plans – if that’s the appropriate thing to do. We should maximise and capture the change of behaviour with people making greater use of active travel and the Spaces for People programme is a very effective way for us to do that.

“Part of the guidance that goes with the Spaces for People funding, that was developed by Sustrans, also has provision within it from the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland which gives advice on aspects relating to wheeling for wheelchair users and also from Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) for those who may have a visual impairment. So there’s guidance there provided to authorities for what they should be looking to put in place in designing these types of projects in order to try and address the needs of those who may have limited mobility or a sensory impairment which may impact on them”.

During the parliament committee Ms Harper also asked the Cabinet Secretary for Transport about the compliance of wearing face coverings on public transport and heard that it has overall been very successful with an average of 90-95% compliance rate.

For more information on Spaces for People contact www.supportdg.dumgal.gov.uk/article/21243/Spaces-for-People <www.supportdg.dumgal.gov.uk/article/21243/Spaces-for-People>