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Guide Dogs granted permission in judicial review hearing

Added: 9 March 2010 | Updated: 15 April 2010

Guide Dogs granted permission to apply for judicial review in dispute with Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea over plans for Exhibition Road

The High Court has today given the green light to Guide Dogs to proceed with the legal challenge against Kensington and Chelsea’s development plans for Exhibition Road.

The scheme is reportedly costing £25m, funded by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, City of Westminster and the Mayor of London.

Over the last five years, Guide Dogs, on behalf of blind and partially sighted people and other vulnerable groups, has raised concerns about this multi-million pound “single surface” scheme which will see vehicles share space with an estimated 19 million pedestrians per year. The delineation of the space proposed by Kensington and Chelsea is untested in a street environment and the decision to proceed with the proposed scheme is, in Guide Dogs view, unlawful and may compromise the ability of blind and partially sighted people to safely navigate the road.

Tom Pey, Guide Dogs Director of External Affairs, explained: “We have been seeking a solution which works for all users of the area around Exhibition Road, with a particular focus on the needs of blind and partially sighted people. 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.”

Guide Dogs lawyer, Alex Rook of Irwin Mitchell, said: “Traffic sign regulations exist to ensure uniformity on our streets. Where Kensington and Chelsea decide to use a traffic sign as specified in the regulations it must do so exactly as required by the regulations or seek consent from the Secretary of State. Here Kensington and Chelsea has done neither, adopting its own type of sign and we believe this is unlawful.

“Mr Justice Wilkie concluded, in the light of the most recent research, that the decision by Kensington and Chelsea to press ahead with the scheme gives rise, arguably, to an unlawful approach.”

For further information about Guide Dogs’ campaign against shared surface streets, visit The campaign is supported by some 40 organisations including RNIB, RNID, Mencap, Scope and Transport for All.

For further information please contact:

Andrew Baud of Tala PR on 07775 715775 or

Alex Rook of Irwin Mitchell on 0114 274 4658 or


Shared space is a new design concept for town centre and high street developments, often delivered by means of a shared surface street design. In most cases the design involves removing the kerb that has traditionally separated areas for vehicles and pedestrians creating a shared surface street.

The shared space concept aims to create attractive shared ‘social’ areas and to reduce the dominance of vehicles to make streets more ‘people-friendly’.

In shared surface street design of the road and its surroundings are altered to cause changes in the behaviour of drivers, encouraging them to be extra cautious as they negotiate the new road layout.

Pedestrians, motorists and cyclists need to make eye contact to establish who has priority. However this puts blind and partially sighted people at a serious disadvantage.

Blind and partially sighted people, particularly guide dog owners and long cane users are trained to use the kerb as a key navigation cue in the street environment. Its removal, without a proven effective, alternative feature, exposes blind and partially sighted people to greater risk, undermines their confidence, and so creates a barrier to their independent mobility. The kerb is also vital for children’s safety when using roads. From an early age children are taught as part of the Green Cross Code to Stop, Look, and Listen at kerbs. If these kerbs are removed, how will children know where to stop?

Guide Dogs supports the aim of creating attractive ‘people-friendly’ street environments but opposes the use of shared surface streets to achieve this. Read the March 2010 campaign update here.

Organisations that support the ‘Say NO to shared streets campaign’:

Action for Blind People

Action Disability Kensington & Chelsea

Arthritis Care

Association of Blind Asians

Association of Visually Impaired Office Staff

Capability Scotland


Deafblind UK

Disability Alliance

Disability Wales

Dog Aid

Dogs for the Disabled


Inclusion Scotland

Joint Committee for the Mobility of Disabled people

Joint Committee for the Mobility of Blind and Partially Sighted people

Leonard Cheshire Disability





Radar – The Disability Network




Sense – for Deafblind People

SERTUC Regional Council

Tendring Community Transport

The Access Association

The National Autistic Society

The National Blind Children’s Society

The National League for the Blind and Disabled

• The Omnibus Partnership

The Scottish Disability Equality Forum

Transport for All

United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council