Disability campaigners call on Boris Johnson to help improve access in Eastbourne

Campaigners have taken their battle for more accessible public spaces all the way to 10 Downing Street.

Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 11:08 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 11:24 am
Eastbourne Access Group visits 10 Downing Street

Eastbourne Access Group has handed in petitions to Boris Johnson, with a message of concern over shared space schemes which they say have isolated blind, partially sighted, disabled and vulnerable pedestrians.

The group’s Ray Blakeborough said, “The purpose of our petition is to highlight the growing and worrying trend of East Sussex County Council and Eastbourne Borough Council of designing disabled people out of our public spaces.

“We are incredibly alarmed at the loss of safe spaces, lack of suitable public transport, and Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles in our taxi fleet, all if which is creating greater isolation amongst our disabled community to the detriment of their physical and mental wellbeing.”

Mr Blakeborough argues the new town centre scheme could have been built to much safer standards.

He said, “Instead we now have a harsh urban landscape with multiple trip hazards in the centre of town including the use of lowered height kerbs.

“It acts as an attractant for anti-social behaviour. There is wholesale misuse of corduroy paving to seperate a live traffic lane from pedestrian space.

“This is compounded by a one-sided consultation with cyclists which led to the decision to allow people to ride their bikes and e-cooters through the town centre, on pavements and seafront promenade.”

Eastbourne Access Group was joined in the capital by the National Federation of the Blind UK, which has been raising concerns about shared space schemes for 10 years.

The organisation’s president, Andrew Hodgson, said, “We do not want to share space with moving vehicles on the road and with cyclists on pavement or when trying to get on and off the bus.

“We simply want our pavements back, our green man pedestrian crossings back and we want direct access to public transport back please.

Eastbourne Access Group visits 10 Downing Street

“We want to be able to walk in safety and we want to reclaim our pavements. This should be a given and it still amazes me we have to campaign so hard to keep our pavements safe and to ensure we can simply get on a bus in safety.”

Responding to concerns about Eastbourne town centre’s new layout in the past, East Sussex County Council (ESCC) said the scheme conforms to national guidelines on road safety and accessibility.

A spokesperson said last month, “We met with the Eastbourne Access Group, have taken on board their comments about the first phase of the scheme, and talked them through the proposals for phase two, which we’re consulting on at the moment.

“Once phase one is complete, we will be carrying out safety and accessibility audits of the scheme and as part of this will look at whether any additional measures need to be put in place.”