Fears shared space plans for Frome's Market Place could pose a risk to blind
A national charity for the blind fears plans to turn the Market Place in Frome into a shared space will make it impossible for blind and partially sighted people to shop and socialise safely in the town centre.
Shared surfaces and courtesy crossings are part of the planned transformation of the town centre with the aim of promoting it as a pedestrian friendly place where space is shared by people and cars.
Plans were unveiled last October to reinstate the Market Place as the centre of a social and economic hub, a place for people to shop and socialise. Ways to make that happen have been put forward by consultants Landscape Projects, commissioned by Frome Town Council.
The proposals include different textured and coloured road surfaces including some raised areas and three crossing points.
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In a letter written to town councillors, the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association’s community engagement officer Neil Howe said that without a clearly delineated “safe” areas, many visually impaired and other disabled people feel vulnerable when sharing space with drivers and cyclists.
He said that courtesy crossings which rely on pedestrians making eye contact with drivers of vehicles could not be used by blind or partially-sighted people.
For this reason controlled crossings with audible signs are needed.
In response, Frome Town Council said that it had already considered retaining the existing pedestrian crossing outside Iceland as part of any scheme to enable the blind and partially sighted to cross safely and were committed to further discussion with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and other representative groups.
Chairman of the town council’s external affairs committee councillor Peter Macfadyen said that no firm decisions had been taken yet and that the council would, of course, take into account the suitability of courtesy crossings for blind, partially sighted and other disabled groups when it comes to the development of more detailed designs.