WILTSHIRE Blind Association believes the new Regent Circus leisure park could become a no-go area for visually impaired people unless the pedestrian crossings are improved.
Members of the Swindon branch, in Victoria Road, expressed their concerns at Swindon Council’s locality meeting, which took place at the Civic Offices, on Thursday evening.
As part of the Ashfield Land scheme, new raised courtesy crossings have been introduced in Regent Circus and Commercial Road. They give priority to pedestrians but residents say this isn’t always adhered to.
During the meeting, the public raised concerns about pedestrians potentially being knocked over because motorists won’t know who has right of way.
John Vickery, chairman of Swindon’s Wiltshire Blind Association branch, said: “I don’t think you’ll get blind people being knocked over because of this as I and many others won’t be risking our lives to go there. That area will just become a no-go area for the visually impaired.”
Claire Cornelius, Swindon Council transport development manager, said any major alterations to the crossing wouldn’t be made until after an independent audit. This is likely to take place in October, when work at the centre is complete, although she did stress that minor improvements would be considered and training could be provided for visually impaired people to help them use the courtesy crossings.
Mike Beale, secretary of Swindon’s Wiltshire Blind Association branch, said: “The suggestion that blind people could be trained to use this already difficult crossing at Regent Circus is offensive and patronising as if blind people are a sub-human species rather than ordinary folk who have visual impairment.”
Alan Fletcher, Swindon Guide Dogs chairman, said: “We have concerns about that area and our problem is that they took the light away.
“It would be better if they’re still there as motorists will obviously stop on a red light whereas they might not on the crossings they have there now.
“I agree these could become no-go areas for the visually impaired which is a pity as this development will boost the town centre.”
Building work on the site, which will house a Morrisons supermarket, cinema and restaurants, is expected to finish next month. Then the independent highways survey will take place.
Coun Dale Heenan, (Con, Covingham and Dorcan) cabinet member for transport, said: “We take on board the concerns and we are trying to work with you.
“This matter is not final, we still have the audit of the development and I will make sure any recommendations are acted on. ”
Morrisons is expected to open in the autumn with the rest of the leisure park due to open in the winter.