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Call for inquiry

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: January 13, 2014

By Leslie Jackson

Derby Street, Leek.

Derby Street, Leek.

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MORE than 100 people turned out to watch a film about the claimed dangers of so-called 'shared spaces' at two special screenings.

Now a delegation of people from Leek has travelled to Downing Street to call for a public inquiry into the issue, following changes to the town's road network which has seen cars and pedestrians using the same space at the bottom of Derby Street.

The film was originally premiered in the House of Lords last month when the documentary, entitled Sea of Change - How Does a Blind Person Cross the Road, was shown to delegates who were attending the 21st Birthday of the United Nations International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

The film, which starts and ends in Leek, travels across Britain to Coventry, Warwick, London, Lewes, Wakefield and South End on Sea, and shows the difficulties blind and partially sighted people have negotiating shared space areas.

It was shown last Thursday and Friday at the Foxlowe Arts Centre in Leek, to a total of around 100 people, and delivered to Downing Street on Monday.

One the film's producers, Leek baker Sarah Gayton, said: "We have gone around the country where shared space schemes have been built. The film is about people's voices being heard.

"We want to help blind and partially sighted people as guide dogs will not use the spaces.

"In Warwick people have told us they will not go into the town centre anymore, and in Coventry guide dogs can't use the system.

"There has been a total lack of understanding with councils across the country. There has been no joined-up thinking

"The concept of shared space is to take down lights and remove the clutter, but in Leek they have lights and shared spaces together.

"Drivers do not know they are entering a shared space area."

Retired engineer Roger Cannon said : "I am frightened to cross the roads and I am able-bodied.

"I know of about 18 incidents which have occurred since the new system has been in operation, but people have not reported them.

"The police have now said that all incidents should be reported.

"Without data the Government will do nothing, so it is vital to report incidents, even near misses.

"What has been done in Leek is wrong. The staggered junction in Haywood Street is the wrong way around as you should be facing oncoming traffic when crossing.

"The railing on the crossing to not conform to British standard as a guide dog could go under the rail and pull the blind person into them."

After viewing the film Leek resident Jean Fisher, aged 60, said : "The film shows that the blind and partially sighted have been put into a minority class and their voices have not been heard.

"There are hundred of thousands of people suffering from sight problems and also the early part of Alzheimer's.

"By removing the controlled crossing they are disorientated. If you have not got all your faculties you are in danger in shared space areas."

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