The redevelopment of Exhibition Road, involving the removal of all street furniture and pavements to create a "shared space" between cars and pedestrians, has once again come under fire.
Over one-hundred members of Guide Dogs for the Blind and The National Federation of the Blind have staged a protest outside City Hall this week, following a similar protest in Exhibition Road itself in mid-May. They argue that the shared street space will endanger visually impaired pedestrians, because those with sticks and guide dogs use the kerb to navigate safely.
The West London Residents' Association has also taken a strong stance against the plans; work on which has already commenced and is expected to be completed in late 2011. They have argued that the disabled, elderly and young children will all be adversely affected.
Councillor Nicholas Paget-Brown, of Kensington and Chelsea, has said that "the shared space design brings substantial benefits for other groups such as wheelchair users, those with limited mobility and parents with pushchairs", insisting that the "100 personal injury accidents in the last three years alone" mean that the shared space is now urgently needed. However, a shared space that has now been installed in Holbein Place, outside the Salone Square tube station, has already been blamed for several "near misses" between cars and pedestrians.
Although London Mayor, Boris Johnson, declined to meet this week's protesters, he did release a statement later on. Mr Johnson said that "it is vital that we get it right". He has attempted to reassure visually impaired road users that those responsible for the project "will make sure that there is a differentiation in street surface to make them usable to all."
Meanwhile, Sarah Gaventa, director of Government advisory body Cabe Space, has said that guide dog users are "very single-issue based", accusing them of not offering "any better solutions".
These aren't the only groups complaining at the changes, however. Significant political pressure is now also being applied by the French government, who are unhappy about 2,000 buses each day being re-routed past the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, the science and technology centre and the French language institute - all of which are situated in Cromwell Place. They have lodged complaints with various bodies involved in the project, and also the Foreign Office.
Routes 14, 74, 414 and C1 are all now stopping in Cromwell Place, due to the changes now implemented in the South section of Exhibition Road. The French Embassy, along with local residents, have complained that they were "not consulted". As well as the new security concerns that this brings, they also worry that the increased air pollution will be dangerous to the 3,500 children at the Lycée Français.
Residents of Cromwell Place, where homes come with a £2million price tag, also say that they have not been consulted about aspects of the change. Some of these residents, along with local workers, have aired their views on various online messageboards. They complain about the removal of a tree and statue from the street. Another goes as far to call the re-routing of the buses "illegal", accusing the council of using a "temporary traffic order" to introduce permanent changes.
Ex-Monty Python star, Michael Palin, took over as President of the Royal Geographical Society on June 1st. The RGS is also a member of the "Exhibition Road Cultural Group", but only time will tell whether Palin will have anything to say on the matter or not.
The criticism has come just days before a large event organised by The ERCG. The annual "Exhibition Road Music Day" takes place this Sunday, with activities and performances taking place throughout Exhibition Road, including various groups from Imperial College.