THE switching off of traffic lights in Braunton Square would be dangerous for visually impaired pedestrians, says the RNIB and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
Martin Cassini, a TV producer and campaigner for road traffic reforms, has suggested switching off the lights at the four-way system on the Square to ease long running congestion problems.
But the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association has launched a national campaign backed by 28 other UK wide disability organisations against shared streets.
A shared street is built with no pavements or kerbs, and with cars, buses, cyclists and pedestrians sharing the same surface — sometimes controlled crossings are also removed.
A spokesman for the association said: "Hundreds of local people and visitors to Braunton will be in serious danger if these plans go ahead.
"Shared surface streets are dangerous and discriminate against the safety and independence of vulnerable pedestrians."
Bill Alker, a spokesman for the Royal National Institute for the Blind, said: "We would be totally against the whole concept.
"The relationship between the driver and pedestrian would have to involve the pedestrian having eye contact with a driver.
"How do you do that when you're visually impaired? The idea is ludicrous."
Mr Cassini has now been influential in a scheme which involved switching off traffic lights in Portishead, Bristol
He said: "It is on a strategic route with similar traffic and pedestrian volumes to Braunton.
"Since the lights went out on September 14 queues and vehicle journey times have dropped dramatically by more than 50%.
"Speeds are gentler and drivers are happier to give way, and a feeling of well-being is in the cleaner air.
"The trial is suggesting no need for controlled crossings — the main source of driver delay — and pointing towards a more sustainable, sociable and inclusive public realm."
Mr Cassini attended a Braunton Parish Council meeting in August and parish councillors wrote to the county council for its opinion on his proposal.
Devon County Council replied that it was not "considered appropriate" to remove the signals at the Square.
A poll on our website at www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk since August with nearly 200 votes shows that 46% would be in favour of switching off the traffic lights in Braunton and 54% would be against.
● Shared space is a new design concept for town centres. In most cases the design involves removing the kerb that has traditionally separated areas for vehicles and pedestrians creating a shared surface street.
It aims to create attractive shared "social" areas and to reduce the dominance of vehicles to make streets more "people-friendly". It encourages drivers to be extra cautious as they negotiate the new road layout.