A damning report into Solihull’s controversial Gateway project has revealed a mountain of failures in the planned scheme.
The road modernisation scheme for Solihull town centre, which has been blasted by disability campaigners, has been slammed in the council report for not providing value for money and failing to consider equality and diversity issues.
The £1.8 million project, which would see an improvement to the road network system in the town centre, came under fire following plans to axe two traffic controlled crossings as part of the scheme.
Blind and partially sighted people have petitioned against the scheme, saying the removal of the crossings would put their lives at risk and stop them visiting the town centre.
The report made to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board rated the project’s risk of financial failure at the maximum level of nine. It also states that the scheme fails ‘to demonstrate consideration of equality and diversity,’ which could lead to legal challenges, negative publicity and protests from minority groups and ‘a reduction in visits to the town centre through individually perceived safety risks.’
Solihull MP Lorely Burt has been campaigning, alongside blind charity RNIB and Guide Dogs, for the two crossings to be retained. “It’s clear the Solihull Gateway project is riddled with risks so the council must take time to listen to what local residents are saying,” Mrs Burt said. “So far the council’s consultation has failed to take into account the special needs of blind and partially sighted people.”
Rebecca Swift, from the RNIB, added: “We welcome the council’s decision to consult more widely with those who may be negatively affected if the project was to go ahead as it currently stands. We urge the council to listen to Solihull residents, including vulnerable road users and to make the necessary changes to the project, including keeping the existing road crossings.”
A Solihull Council spokeswoman said: “We are currently working with stakeholder groups that represent vulnerable members of the community to ensure the Gateway scheme is safe and fully supports the needs of all people.
“We have made a decision to defer the start of the project, so that we have sufficient time to review and confirm our plans. We will submit a report to the Cabinet Member in the autumn, which will enable a final decision on the scheme to be made.”