Guide Dogs Issues Judicial Review Over Council’s ‘Unlawful’ Plans For Shared Surface Street Plans In Exhibition Road, Part Funded By The Mayor Of London
Solicitors acting for Guide Dogs have issued a Judicial Review challenge in the High Court to the legality of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s (RBKC) plans for a dangerous shared surface street in Exhibition Road.
In taking this action, Guide Dogs wants to ensure the safe and independent mobility of thousands of local blind and partially sighted people, disabled and elderly people, and young children. The charity supports any development that encourages reduced clutter, lower traffic speeds and greater freedom of movement for pedestrians but not at the expense of vulnerable pedestrians through the arbitrary removal of kerbs, without an acceptable, proven alternative. It is estimated the redevelopment will cost £25m, partly funded by the Mayor of London.
Under the current plans, the road and pavement would be built at the same level only separated by untested corduroy paving rather than using the traffic sign required by legislation. Guide Dogs – supported by research in the UK - has found no suitable alternative to a kerb to delineate a road.
The essence of the Judicial Review is that the scheme adopted by RBKC is unlawful and puts the 19m visitors per year to Exhibition Road and other pedestrians at serious risk.
The current legislation requires the edge of a carriageway to be marked with a white line. Guide Dogs does not think that a white line on its own would provide the same safety as a kerb. Without a white line and a kerb, Guide Dogs considers the only lawful approach by RBKC is to approach the Department for Transport (DfT) for special authorisation for this scheme.
This is the first time in the charity’s 77 year history that it has taken legal action in this way.
Tom Pey, Guide Dogs’ Director of External Affairs commented: “We regret that we have had to take this action but we have to highlight the impact of RBKC’s proposals on the mobility of blind and partially sighted people and other vulnerable pedestrians.
“The Council has repeatedly ignored our research, and representations from other organisations as well as our ‘Say NO to shared streets’ campaign which is supported by 30 UK wide disability organisations. 67% of Londoners agree the road’s design will negatively impact on disabled people .
“The Secretary of State for Transport has said there is no evidence that these schemes offer any greater benefit than traditional traffic calming techniques. The Mayor of London has said he won’t support any scheme which is unsafe for blind and partially sighted people, yet he is supporting this before Transport for London’s research is known.
“Blind and partially sighted people need consistency in the design of streets. If they can’t tell where the road begins and the pavement ends, how can they feel safe?”
Andrew Lockley, Partner and Head of Public Law at Irwin Mitchell, which is representing the charity, said: “These legal proceedings highlight the lack of clear guidance on this issue from the Department for Transport. The Department has declined to comment on this street design and instead, are awaiting the results of their research in to shared surface streets before issuing their guidance. This has left RBKC free to press ahead with this deceptive scheme.”
These legal proceedings also highlight that the current regulatory framework does not address effective delineation in these schemes.