Charter seeks to clear Exeter’s streets of obstacles and clutter

DCC Leader John Hart (left), ECC Leader Pete Edwards (right). In background are local campaigner Marilyn Lant and Steve Hyde for RNIB

Posted on: 22 November 2018

Councils in Exeter have pledged to ensure that the city’s streets, pavements and walkways are kept free of clutter and obstacles and accessible to people affected by sight loss or mobility issues.

Leaders of both Exeter City Council and Devon County Council have signed a Clear Streets Charter for the city.

The Charter sets out how the local authorities propose to work together to ensure that the city is as safe and obstacle free as possible. Exeter is one of the first places in the UK to adopt such a charter.

Cllr David Harvey, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for Place and Commercialisation, said:

“We are committed to ensure that all pedestrians, especially those affected by sight loss or mobility difficulties can fully participate in and enjoy the local built environment, without feeling unsafe or concerned about walking into an obstacle.”

Cllr Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community, Public Health, Transportation & Environmental Services, said:

“For a person with a disability, it can be a challenge to get around to visit their local shops, GP surgery or other local service, with a variety of obstacles hindering their journey and at worse causing injury.”

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has backed the charter. Steve Hyde, RNIB Regional Campaigns Officer for the South West, said:

“RNIB launched the ‘Clear Streets Charter Campaign’ nationally in 2015 to ensure that the built environment was accessible to blind and partially sighted people. We carried out a survey in which a third of people said they had been injured during a three-month period when walking around their local area. They said they were so intimidated by the risks outside, they ended up staying at home and becoming isolated. We don’t want people to feel this way.”

“We commend all of the hard work, and commitment shown by Devon County and Exeter City Councils to ensure that people with sight loss those with other disabilities can access this region in the knowledge that their safety is at the heart of the community. “

Both councils believe engaging with the local community is crucial in helping to make decisions which will affect Exeter. This includes design, layout and management of the city centre, shopping precincts and residential streets to ensure that they are free from obstacles and clutter-free.

Devon County Council’s sensory team helped highlight the challenge that high street clutter poses to people affected by sight loss or mobility issues, during a city-centre walk in the summer. The team provided rehabilitation officers to guide attendees who wore glasses that simulate different eye conditions. The group helped demonstrate how street furniture such as advertising boards, cycle racks, and benches can be problematic for visually impaired people. And how a lack of kerbs or tactile pavement can cause difficulties for people.

The Charter sets out a list of actions and commitments.  These include:

• Advertising boards– working with local businesses to make them realise how these can be challenging to blind people or those who are partially sighted.
• Street furniture – carrying out regular audits to ensure this is safe and appropriately placed to allow safe navigation around
• New developments – proactive engagement with blind and partially sighted people around the design and development
• Rubbish and recycling bins – ensuring these are within the curtilage of the property, wherever possible

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