“It is not a sensible approach” - concern over impact of city centre changes on those with sight loss

Joy Croft is registered blind. She says changes to Norwich city centre is making it unsafe for blin

Joy Croft is registered blind. She says changes to Norwich city centre is making it unsafe for blind pedestrians. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

The removal of accessible pelican crossings is turning the city centre into a no-go area for people with sight loss, a charity has warned.

Over the past two years there have been various changes made to areas including Westlegate and St Stephens Plain in a bid to reduce traffic.

It has led to the removal of signalled crossings and the introduction of more shared spaces for pedestrians and cyclists.

But the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind (NNAB) has claimed the changes have led to problems for the visually impaired.

Simon Marshall, from the charity, said: 'We are very concerned about the arrangements put in place for the visually impaired to cross, because areas that are pedestrianised still contain lots of buses.'

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He said the proposed locations for some crossings will force people with sight loss to walk long distances just to get over the road.

'If you can imagine a visually impaired person who can't move quickly,' he said. 'If they want to cross a road, they might have to walk 500ft in the wrong direction to do so. It is not a sensible approach.

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'There are now places where the lack of a pelican crossing makes it almost impossible for people to get across.'

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said it had taken steps to make sure the new shared space areas were 'readable' to blind people.

They added that officers had consulted and worked with the NNAB to find the best solution to the issue.

Joy Croft, who is registered blind, said the changes made her feel like she no longer 'belonged' in the city.

'They are removing the push-button crossings, so there is no way for someone like me to know if it is safe to cross the road,' the 73-year-old said.

'There are now places I can't get to and some of the journeys I can make are very tiring because I have to find a new way to get there.'

There are an estimated 3,900 blind or partially sighted people living in Norwich, according to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

RNIB campaigns officer Emily Papaleo said: 'Safe crossings along key routes in the city are essential to enable blind and partially sighted people to walk around Norwich independently. If crossing the street is difficult, dangerous, or involves walking further than necessary, people may simply choose not to make the journey or take unnecessary risks.'

Bert Bremner, city council cabinet member for transport, said: 'When designing the changes, we have worked closely with the NNAB and other groups to find the best solutions possible while also creating safe spaces that promote freedom of movement for everyone on foot.'

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