'Our pavements are crowded with street clutter, or parked cars'

Timber, a four-year-old labrador, guides his owner Arthur Griffiths from Crewe across the road after

Street clutter and parked cars create a challenge for the visually impaired - Credit: PA

The government is looking to increase the volume and safety of those walking and cycling with upcoming changes to the Highway Code, which will soon give greater priority to pedestrians and cyclists, with a "hierarchy of road users" putting greater responsibility for road safety on more dangerous modes of transport.

This is welcome, but one of the biggest challenges faced by pedestrians is the state of our footways. Too many of our pavements are crowded with street clutter, or parked cars. This is a particular challenge for those who use wheelchairs or mobility aids, the visually impaired, and those with pushchairs.

Thankfully, the council is finally beginning to consult on the overdue removal of footway parking. Parking on pavements - already banned in London unless a local authority creates its own pavement parking zones, something Haringey chose to do on many of our roads - can make life difficult and dangerous for pedestrians, in many cases narrowing the footway to a width that is impassable: so the consultations on removal are welcome.

Pavement clutter is not solely the council’s responsibility however, and unfortunately, most of the main players do not seem to want to engage with this problem. I recently wrote to BT, asking that they remove the four dilapidated phone boxes in front of the Grade II* listed Hornsey Town Hall, which have long served as a hub for antisocial behaviour, and are located at one of the most crowded parts of the high street.

Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison. Picture: Haringey Lib Dems

Luke Cawley-Harrison approves of the upcoming changes to the Highway Code - Credit: Archant

In response I received a snarky refusal email, referencing BT’s recently rejected planning application for a "street hub" (essentially a digital screen advertising hub). To quote: “If we’d had permission to install a Street Hub by the Town Hall, then we’d have removed two of the boxes. It’s a shame that our planning application wasn’t approved.” Read that as you will... 

Sadly a law which means telecoms companies do not require planning permission to install phone boxes and broadband cabinets (and does not give councils the power to remove them) has led to a cavalier attitude to our footways, with companies seeming to care little about the impact of their structures on local areas.

It is time to make Haringey a truly pedestrian-friendly borough, and that means removing the literal obstacles residents face when they walk down our pavements. The council needs to do what it can, alongside partners, to improve the accessibility of our footways by reducing obstacles and redundant street clutter, and keeping cars, electric charging points and temporary traffic signs on the road where they belong, so our footways are prioritised for pedestrians.

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Luke Cawley-Harrison is the leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition at Haringey Council.