Pressure from sight-loss charities has seen part of a new shared space scheme for Preston re-worked.Advertisement
Galloways Society for the Blind objected to the University of Central Lancashire’s Adelphi Square plan.
Its chief executive Stuart Clayton addressed Preston City Council’s planning committee and outlined the blind community’s fears over the proposals.
UCLan had put in the proposal for the Adelphi roundabout – with the support of Lancashire County Council – which would see the segregation between drivers, pedestrians and cyclists minimised.
Galloways said the lessons from the Fishergate scheme – which many blind people say has made the city centre a ‘no go zone’ – must be learned.
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Shared space relies on ‘courtesy crossings’ where drivers and pedestrians need to have eye contact. Galloways said this is ‘fundamentally flawed’ for people with sight loss.
Preston City Council’s planning committee approved the £60million proposal for new UCLan buildings and the re-worked roundabout – but has attached a condition requiring UCLan to have controlled crossing points.
Mr Clayton said: “As a charity supporting over 7,000 blind and partially sighted people each year, our responsibility is to represent the views of blind and partially sighted people. We held consultation events and spoke to many people about the proposed scheme and the current Fishergate shared space scheme in the heart of Preston. The feedback we received from blind and partially sighted people clearly states that the principle of ‘shared space’ discriminates against them. People feel fearful of using the current shared space scheme and will do all they can to avoid it.
“As part of our commitment to work with the UCLan Project Team we held consultation events and visual awareness training – the experience of walking through Fishergate blindfolded. Our efforts in trying to show how frightening a shared space scheme can be for somebody living with sight loss did not influence the design of the scheme, particularly the inclusion of controlled crossing points. The recently published independent CIHT report to the Department of Transport on shared space stated that the CIHT review supported our claim; finding evidence that the Fishergate scheme is not inclusive.
“Whilst we still have some concern over design elements, we are absolutely delighted that Preston City Council have addressed the specific issue regarding the inclusion of controlled crossing points.
“I asked councillors to consider if they would feel safe to close their eyes and cross a road using an uncontrolled crossing point. Our position has not changed, we want to work in partnership with Lancashire County Council and UCLan to make sure that Preston is at the forefront of ensuring access for all. This development has the opportunity to be a national lead for other schemes, ensuring inclusivity for all. It is too important for the City and the University to get this wrong.”
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A University of Central Lancashire spokesperson said: “Securing planning permission for this flagship project is fantastic news and we’re extremely grateful to the many people and organisations who came forward to provide us with their views during the consultation process. Their contribution was invaluable.
“Galloway’s was just one of the partners we worked with, and a number of their suggested changes to the highways layout will be implemented by Lancashire County Council as the detailed scheme is developed from the outline design submitted with the planning application. As a result of their beneficial involvement, the specific changes Galloway’s requested include the raising of curb heights in excess of those on Fishergate, the inclusion of sufficiently contrasting colours between curbs and pavements, and the introduction of a brand new controlled crossing on Walker Street will be implemented.
“We await the final wording of the planning conditions from Preston City Council, and we’ll continue to work closely alongside Lancashire County Council and all interested parties, including Galloway’s, to ensure the scheme is accessible for all users. The planning decision will not affect our approach to ongoing consultation and discussions with wider stakeholders. We want to provide the best possible scheme for all, whilst acknowledging the constraints we have to work within.”
County Councillor Keith Iddon, Cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We’re delighted that the scheme has been given planning approval, as it will clearly improve this area of the city and the university campus itself, through a significant new development on the site which represents another major investment in Central Lancashire.
“As the highways authority, we were consulted on the original proposals put forward by the University of Central Lancashire as part of the planning application. We will continue to provide this role and will carefully consider any revised proposals that are put to us by the university.”
What do you think of Galloways comments? And the shared space scheme? Let us know in the comments below