CONTROVERSIAL plans to axe the pedestrian crossing at the end of Solihull High Street as part of the Council’s proposed Gateway Project have been put on hold while the scheme is given greater consideration.
The Observer exclusively revealed earlier in the year how charities for the visually impaired, along with local Guide Dog users, had been outraged by the proposal which would have seen the lowering of the kerb to create a ‘shared access’ pedestrian right of way scheme despite traffic, in particular buses, still using the area as normal.
Campaigners were fearful the proposals would make crossing the road potentially lethal for the visually impaired who rely on the kerbs to know where the road starts and finishes and on the pedestrian crossings to let them know when traffic is stopped and it is safe to cross.
The proposal would also have caused massive problems for the Guide Dogs who are all trained to work alongside pedestrian crossings, leading their owners to the ‘safe’ place and waiting for the sound of the crossing before beginning to lead their owners across.
Heavy campaigning by affected parties and Solihull MP Lorely Burt followed our initial exclusive.
And now Council bosses have agreed the entire project needs further exploration and consultation before it can progress.
A Solihull Council spokesperson said: “We are currently working with stakeholder groups that represent vulnerable members of the community to ensure the Solihull Gateway scheme is safe and fully supports the needs of all people.
“While we take time to engage with and listen to the views of these groups we have made a decision to defer the start of the project, so that we have sufficient time to review and confirm our plans.
“We will submit a report to the Cabinet Member in the autumn, which will enable a final decision on the scheme to be made.”
Rebecca Swift, Regional Campaigns Officer at the Royal National Institute for Blind People, said the organisation welcomed the Council’s decision to consult more widely with those who may be negatively affected if the project was to go ahead as it currently stands.
She added: “We urge the council to listen to the views of Solihull residents, including vulnerable road users and to make the necessary changes to the project, including keeping the existing road crossings.”
Solihull Guide Dog user Kenneth Fear added: “I am grateful that Solihull Council is taking time to listen to concerns when considering its proposals for the Solihull Gateway Project.
“It is very important that the Town Centre is accessible to all people whether disabled or not.
“A number of other Councils have taken decisions like these and subsequently had to make changes in order to provide safe crossing points, which can not only be expensive but also very disruptive to residents and visitors alike.”
Solihull MP Lorely Burt also welcomed the delay, saying it is clear the Solihull Gateway project is ‘riddled with risks so the council must take time to listen to what local residents are saying.’