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Visually impaired man’s victory over Newham Council for ‘safe’ crossing

17:00 08 November 2012

High Court judge criticises council for breach of guidelines

A partially sighted campaigner has triumphed in his High Court fight to force Newham Council to invest in “tactile paving” at uncontrolled pedestrian crossings so that blind people can feel their way across the road.

In handing victory to determined resident, Mohammed Mohsan Ali, a top judge slammed the council for its failure to comply with Department of Transport guidelines formulated in consultation with the RNIB and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

In defiance of the guidelines, Newham had decided not put down “blistered” paving stones at uncontrolled pedestrian crossings, saying that they risked causing accidents, pain to arthritis sufferers and inconvenience to wheelchair-users and mothers pushing prams.

Newham’s head of built environment, Paul Rogers, had said there was simply “no provision” in the council’s £30million highways budget to put down “unnecessary” tactile paving at minor crossings which are typically in side roads and away from major junctions.

However, Mr Justice Kenneth Parker issued the council with a stinging rebuke when he ruled that there was no good reason for the council’s “substantial departure” from national guidelines formulated “at a high level” by experts in the field.

Upholding Mr Ali’s judicial review challenge and ruling that Newham was not entitled to go its own way and “maintain the status quo”, he said: “I conclude that Newham was required to follow the national guidance unless it had good reasons to depart from it.”

“I find no such good reasons, it was not suggested that there were any special circumstances in Newham that made the national guidance inappropriate.”

He added: “The fact that Newham consulted on its proposals and formed its own view on how to balance the interests of other affected groups against the needs of the visually impaired does not provide a good reason for departing from the guidance”.

Observing that he was “not impressed by the argument that other London boroughs are also departing substantially from the national guidance”, the judge concluded: “It may turn out that this judgment has an effect beyond the local authority of Newham.”

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