Pavement improvements in sight

New rules are set to make pavements in Northumberland safer and easier to negotiate for pedestrians, particularly for those with visual difficulties, in wheelchairs or with pushchairs and small children.
Following renewed calls for change from visual action groups the county council has reviewed its policy and brought in new guidelines that will be closely monitored by council teams.
For main pedestrian routes the new guidance states that there should be an absolute minimum of two metres clear width of pavement - and a desirable width of three and a half metres.
For secondary pedestrian routes and other less heavily used footways the absolute minimum clear width is one and a half metres, preferably two.
The new guidance has been designed to balance the needs of pedestrians to be able to visit and shop in safety, with the needs of shops and businesses to promote their services - keeping the local economy vibrant in Northumberland.
The new guidance covers items that are classed as unauthorised under the Highways Act, including A-boards, pavement cafes and goods for sale.
It sets out the conditions which must be adhered to if items are to be placed on footpaths and in public areas, and provides specific details about A-boards.
Council teams will assess situations and prioritise their attention on obstructions which are deemed to be outside the guidelines, and therefore present a danger, potential danger or blocks the passage of highway users.  The guidance includes the process the council will follow where objects need to be removed.  
The council has been working with the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Northumberland Low Vision Action Group and representatives of other disability groups to consider how best to deal with street clutter, and to support visually impaired people to live independent lives.  It carried out a review of current policies and consulted widely across the county with businesses, local councillors and town and parish councils.
Councillor Ian Swithenbank, cabinet member for local services at the county council said:  “For many years the use of A-boards and other goods displays have been a popular way of attracting shoppers.
“However, as our streets have become busier we have seen an increased number of complaints about this type of advertising, as well as other obstructions, which make journeys along footpaths challenging at times.
“The council is committed to supporting and working with local businesses to grow the local economy, and understands the need for them to promote their services.  However we also have a responsibility to ensure that members of the public can use the streets and footways easily and safely.
“While we know that some low vision groups would have preferred a complete ban of A-boards and other unauthorised obstructions, we have to achieve a balance which also continues to support our local businesses.
“The majority of respondents to the wide consultation exercise were supportive of the guidelines we are now implementing and I believe this provides a pragmatic solution to support all highway users.”

Photo courtesy of the RNIB
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