Southend on sea " Shared Spaces"
Petition against shared spaces.
Southend Pensioners and National Federation of the Blind
Please support our campaign to retain our pedestrian crossings with audible signals, and to give us back our pavements of City Beach and Victoria Gateway.
Southend Council has been short-listed for an award for its two new shared space schemes, at Victoria Gateway and City Beach.
Jill Allen King a 71-year-old totally blind resident of Southend, and a guide dog owner, and Secretary of the local Branch of the National Federation of the Blind.
Regarding the Victoria Gateway development, we were consulted concerning the plans for this scheme, but all the recommendations we made were totally ignored, such as failure to install a pedestrian crossing outside the railway station, which is where the shared area is. There is a complete flat surface; the only dividing line between the shared area and the central footway area consists of round concrete bollards that are lower than knee height. Regarding the City Beach scheme, despite many letters and e-mails requesting these plans, we were not shown a tactile layout until March 8th, 2011, at our local Branch meeting, just twenty-three days before it was to be opened. This tactile plan did not show that there was a completely flat kerb and that there were no disabled toilets or baby changing facilities, and that cycling would be allowed on the footway as no cycle track had been built within the scheme. On April 6th, my first visit to this scheme showed that it was far more dangerous than the tactile plan had indicated, despite the fact that I had been told there would be a 65 mm kerb throughout, which really isn't sufficient - our policy throughout the UK and in Europe is a 125 mm kerb, which is not only required for the safety of blind people, but for low-floor buses and taxis that have to embark and disembark wheelchair users. On both schemes, the Council has not complied with their responsibilities under the UN Convention on Disability, and the UK Equality Bill. They have not consulted properly, and have not taken into account the needs of blind, partially sighted and deaf-blind people. After a visit on May 16th, by my District Manager from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to both schemes, the Council officers were told that both schemes are now "no go areas" for blind and partially sighted people, and both areas are unsafe and very dangerous. The City Beach scheme, which runs from Southend Pier to the Kursaal, which is a very busy road, used by hundreds of motorists daily throughout the year, despite there being a pedestrian crossing adjacent to the pier and to the Kursaal, there is no other pedestrian crossing along the new road. The previous pedestrian crossings were removed in the new scheme. The crossing at the Kursaal and all the new traffic light crossings at Victoria Gateway do not have audible signals, which are required by blind and partially sighted people, people with learning difficulties and for children. As I have been Chairperson of the European Blind Union Commission on Mobility and Transport for the past fourteen years, I am fully aware of the lack of consultation on these shared space schemes with blind and partially sighted people's organisations, and I know that these areas have become "no go areas" for thousands of blind and partially sighted people throughout Europe. This means that blind and partially sighted people are being discriminated against by local and national governments. MRS JILL ALLEN-KING, OBE, Secretary of Southend and Essex Branch, National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom. 59, SS0 9XD Tel.: 01702 477 899.