Plan to make Preston more accessible for visually impaired and disabled

A new “street charter” has been adopted in Preston in an effort to make public spaces easier to navigate for people with sight impairments and other disabilities.

By Paul Faulkner
Saturday, 3rd October 2020, 8:39 am
Updated Monday, 12th October 2020, 11:42 am

The document sets out a series of pledges from Lancashire County Council about what the authority will do to ensure that vulnerable road users are not disadvantaged by decisions over the design and use of the highway.

County Hall says that it will ensure groups representing blind and disabled people are properly consulted on major changes to the public realm.

When the ‘shared space’ scheme was introduced on Fishergate in 2014 – reducing the distinction between the carriageway and the pavement – it prompted complaints from disability groups that it posed a danger.

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Disability groups will be better consulted over any significant changes to Preston's streetscape

Similar concerns were raised over its use as part of the ongoing UCLan civic square development on the site of the former Aldephi roundabout. The government brought a halt to any new shared space initiatives back in 2018, pending new guidance.

The county council has also committed to take into account potential problems caused by advertising boards and other street furniture when it responds to consultations over their use – and will work with Preston City Council’s licensing department to ensure that tables and chairs outside eateries are “adequately guarded”.

It has pledged to use its powers to ensure vegetation is cut back when it overhangs the street – and repeated its call for powers over obstructive parking to be transferred from the police to local authorities.

Cabinet member for highways, Keith Iddon – who walked blindfolded along Fishergate in 2017 to find out how it felt to negotiate the city with no vision – said that the streets of Lancashire could be like “an obstacle course” for blind and disabled people.

“While some things can be difficult to change, other obstacles can be removed by all of us thinking about what we do, where we park our cars, how we ride our bicycles and if we really need to leave our bin in the street.

“[We want] to help create an inclusive environment where everyone feels safe, secure and able to participate more fully in life,” he said.

Stuart Clayton, chief executive of the Penwortham-based blind charity Galloway’s, said: “Galloway’s welcomes the introduction of a Street Charter and commends the work of the Lancashire VI forum for working alongside Lancashire County Council.

“We are delighted to hear that Lancashire County Council will not develop any new shared space schemes until…new guidance is issued, when the position will be reviewed.

“Mobility is challenging enough if you have limited vision, which is why this is an important document that we hope will improve the accessibility of all our streets for blind and partially sighted people.

“We understand that resources are limited and therefore hope that Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council are able to use the new street charter to make real changes to ensure our streets are accessible for all,” Mr. Clayton added.

The county council is piloting the charter in Preston, but hopes to use it as a blueprint to be rolled out to all of Lancashire’s districts.