Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

Judicial review into 'frightening' Exhibition Road plan

artist's impression Exhibition Road
An artist's impression of the Exhibition Road revamp

A charity has been granted the right to apply for a judicial review into plans for a £30m redevelopment of one of London's most famous streets.

Kensington and Chelsea Council is redesigning Exhibition Road, which is in an area visited by 11.5m tourists a year.

Guide Dogs For The Blind has warned the changes could cause blind people to veer into traffic.

A judge ruled the charity had an arguable case on the scheme's legality.

Exhibition Road links Hyde Park and South Kensington.

The charity had argued the scheme, which would see the road and pavement altered to be on a single level, may not comply with the 1984 Road Traffic Regulations Act.

It claims that although a kerb is the only proven way for blind people to tell between road and pavement, a white line would help the 94% of visually impaired who have some residual sight.

The lack of boundaries makes these streets extremely difficult to navigate, and therefore very frightening
Guide Dogs For The Blind Association

At the moment tactile strips are the only warning.

Stephen Sauvain QC, counsel for the authority, said it had gone as far as it could short of an open ended commitment.

He added that trees and street furniture would help mark the boundary.

But Judge Mr Justice Wilkie said: "The decision to press ahead regardless does give rise arguably to an unlawful approach."

Reacting to the decision, Tom Pey, of the Guide Dogs For The Blind Association, said: "As already proved by several misguided schemes in other cities, the lack of boundaries makes these streets extremely difficult to navigate, and therefore very frightening.

"Kensington and Chelsea has been unreasonable in its refusal to give serious consideration to our concerns about the redevelopment plans for Exhibition Road.

"As a result, we have been left with no option but to have the court address these issues."

A spokesman for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said they were "disappointed" with the decision.

Exhibition Road is in urgent need of developments with "overcrowded pavements and dangerous road crossings".

The improvements were aimed at improving the area for everyone, including "wheelchair users, the elderly and those with pushchairs".

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