Fears that no kerbs plan for Southsea street may put blind at risk

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BLIND campaigner Peter Cairns has spoken out against plans to let traffic and pedestrians share part of Palmerston Road in Southsea.

The 60-year-old has contacted Portsmouth City Council to raise concerns that proposals to create a ‘shared surface’ – where the pavements and road are on the same level – would pose dangers to blind and visually-impaired people.

He is being backed by Portsmouth Association for the Blind and national charity Guide Dogs, who both warn that even specially-trained dogs struggle to navigate without kerbs.

In a bid to promote a European-style cafe culture, the council has proposed pavement build-outs, road resurfacing and banning all vehicles except buses, delivery lorries and bikes from the south of the street. But Mr Cairns, who lives in Southsea, argues the measures will discriminate against almost 1,000 people in the city who are registered blind or visually impaired.

He said: ‘Safe, attractive and well-designed public spaces are very important, but they must be safe and accessible to all.

‘The council should be adopting an inclusive street design policy, not one which discriminates against any members of the community.’

He added: ‘If this goes ahead, Palmerston Road could become a no-go area for blind people – or pose them serious risks.’

Echoing Mr Cairns’s concerns was the secretary and CEO of Portsmouth Association For The Blind, Ian Stedman-Brown.

‘These problems are unavoidable,’ he said. ‘But this plan will effectively cause a lot of inconvenience to a minority group.

‘There are other ways to solve this problem – such as running a cable under the kerb that activates a sensor when you approach it.’

The council’s assistant head of transport Pam Turton said the council is working with groups such as PAB to draw up the final plans.

She said: ‘Around the country, shared surfaces are a common way of making shopping areas more welcoming for pedestrians. The raised road surface gives the feeling of a shared space, and drivers slow down accordingly. A 20mph limit is also one of the proposals.

‘As part of the proposals, cars and taxis wouldn’t be allowed. The only motor vehicles will be delivery vehicles, between 6am and 11am, and buses – up to seven an hour.

The council hopes the work will run from February until May next year.