Campaigner urges U-turn on ‘discriminatory’ plans

One of the design images for the streetscape project in Stobhill that will create a new look at a crossroads area.
One of the design images for the streetscape project in Stobhill that will create a new look at a crossroads area.

A campaigner has urged the county council not to progress with a ‘shared-space’ scheme in Morpeth, as it will exclude a proportion of the population.

The pilot ‘civilised design’ project in Stobhill, which is set to start later this year, will result in a new look for a key road crossing area that includes the junctions of Shields Road, Jobling Crescent, First Avenue and Third Avenue.

But members of the Northumberland (Low Vision) Action Group have raised fears that the new streetscape will prevent blind and partially sighted people from walking in this area as the initiative involves removing some pavements and road markings to create an open space for both pedestrians and vehicles.

In last week’s Herald, the county councillor for Morpeth Stobhill, Coun Ian Lindley, who has worked with officers at Northumberland County Council to bring the scheme forward, said the design includes tactile paving to allow blind and partially sighted pedestrians to align themselves and to warn of hazards.

He added: “The criticisms refer to pure ‘shared space’ schemes and that’s not what will happen in Stobhill.

“We’ve included elements of it, but the demarkation will be very clear and the design has taken account of, and is in accordance with, Government guidance on measures for those with disabilities.”

But this week, the Herald was contacted by activist and filmmaker, Sarah Gayton, who spearheaded an anti-shared space campaign with Conservative peer Lord Holmes that has led to a public inquiry by the Women and Equalities Committee of MPs.

Ms Gayton said: “Why should money be spent on a scheme that cannot be used by a proportion of the population?

“There’s no way Morpeth should be putting something in which fundamentally excludes people.”

A county council spokeswoman previously said that the scheme is a pilot for other areas and is one of several that are being investigated.