Camden’s cluttered streets make walking difficult for blind residents

Navigating a busy street is hard enough for people who are blind or partially sighted.

But a new survey carried out by the charity Guide Dogs has revealed Camden Town is home to the UK’s most treacherous streets for the visually-impaired, with 109 items of street clutter found in the area in total.

The survey of 65 towns across the UK also found Camden High Street contained the fourth highest number of advertising boards in the UK, with 26 signs lining the route from Camden Town Tube station to Camden Lock.

The findings come as no surprise to Hampstead resident Red Szell, 43, who has been registered blind since 1989 and has first-hand experience of the challenges Camden High Street and the rest of the borough presents.

He said: “I’m often forced off the pavement and into the road by street clutter, which is signage and street furniture, as well as pavement traders.”

Mr Szell, of Gayton Road, has just five per cent vision and uses a cane as a guide when walking.

He insists he regularly walks into obstacles, explaining: “It’s not so bad when they are leg level but I often find myself bumping my head on something because the stick won’t reach.

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“Camden High Street is an issue and, while they made an effort to remove street furniture, Hampstead High Street is still a difficult road to navigate because there is so much clutter on the pavement.”

Items identified by the survey which are causing problems include wheelie bins, hanging baskets, trees, parked cars, sign posts, bollards and street caf� tables and chairs.

David Cowdrey, head of campaigns at Guide Dogs, said: “Street clutter has blighted our pavements for too long and councils need to take action to clean up our streets immediately.

“Advertising boards should be positioned consistently along a pavement, leaving an unobstructed pathway for pedestrians.”

Cllr Phil Jones, Camden Council’s cabinet member for sustainability, said the Guide Dogs survey was “fundamentally flawed” as much of the clutter featured in the survey was “displayed on business and privately-owned property.”.

He added: “Camden is proud of the zero tolerance approach to street clutter and will continue where appropriate to remove such items and take action where it is possible to do so.”