A Morpeth councillor has responded to concerns about a major scheme that he is leading.
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.
If successful, it will be rolled out to a few other areas of the county.
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.
Coun Ian Lindley has worked with officers at Northumberland County Council to bring the scheme forward and he believes all residents will benefit.
He has also responded to criticism over the cost of the project and for digging up a section of road that was resurfaced two years ago.
The county councillor for Morpeth Stobhill said the design includes tactile paving to allow blind and partially sighted pedestrians to align themselves and to warn of hazards.
“I have been a tour guide and sight guide for the charity Vitalise (it is now called Revitalise), so I have every sympathy with the issues they have to deal with,” he added.
“But I don’t think the people raising concerns have examined the details of what will be put in place because when two members of the action group came along to one of the consultation events, they seemed happy with the proposals.
“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.
“The area being changed will also look a lot better and similar projects elsewhere have led to a reduction in accidents because it introduces an element of doubt for drivers, so they will be more careful and drive slower.”
It will cost about £280,000 and the funds will come from the Northumberland Local Transport Plan. Shields Road was resurfaced in 2014.
Coun Lindley said: “The money has been set aside specifically for this scheme, so it’s not funding that can be spent on something else in Stobhill.
“The works will only cover a relatively small part of Shields Road, so the resurfacing that took place a couple of years ago is still a worthwhile project.”