Guide Dogs secures ‘shared streets’ court victory


A disability charity has won a high court victory in its battle to stop a development in London’s tourist heartland that puts the safety of blind and partially-sighted people at risk.

The development of Exhibition Road by Kensington and Chelsea council is only the latest in a series of “shared street” schemes introduced by local authorities across the country.

Such designs usually remove kerbs so motorists and pedestrians can share the space, so they then have to make eye contact to establish who has the right of way.

The charity Guide Dogs says this and the absence of kerbs, which people with guide dogs and long canes use to navigate, risks the safety of blind and partially-sighted pedestrians.

Guide Dogs yesterday (Thursday) won the right in the high court to challenge the council’s plans through a judicial review.

The charity – whose campaign against shared streets is backed by nearly 40 organisations, including the UK Disabled People’s Council, RADAR, Deafblind UK and Transport for All – has been raising concerns about the plans for more than five years.

Exhibition Road is used by an estimated 19 million pedestrians a year and runs from Hyde Park past the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Tom Pey, director of external affairs for Guide Dogs, said: “We have been seeking a solution which works for all users of the area around Exhibition Road, with a particular focus on the needs of blind and partially-sighted people.

“As already proved by several misguided schemes in other cities, the lack of boundaries makes these streets extremely difficult to navigate, and therefore very frightening.”

He said the council had been “unreasonable” in its refusal to take the concerns seriously.

A Kensington and Chelsea council spokesman said it was “disappointed” with the court’s decision.

He said the council took the safety of all road users “extremely seriously” and had been working with Guide Dogs and other disability organisations since 2004 to ensure their needs were incorporated in the scheme.

He said Exhibition Road was in “urgent need of development due to overcrowded pavements and dangerous road crossings”, and the new scheme would include “clear visual and tactile delineators” and would “improve the experience for all who use the area, particularly wheelchair users, the elderly and those with pushchairs who will enjoy increased pedestrian space, the single surface and traffic reduced to less than 20mph”.

4 March 2010

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