Tourism St Andrews chair, Debbie MacCallum, feels that not enough has been done to ensure the safety of visitors and residents and has called on the local authority to make improvements now. “St Andrews is really busy,” she said. “The problem is that the town doesn’t have any social distancing guidelines. I hope something will be done,” adding, “I fear it will be too little too late. Surely, for Fife Council, St Andrews is the golden goose. I’d be making sure that it’s fit for purpose for people coming back. We need the economy to open in a safe and secure way; the council needs to do its bit.”
Echoing the concerns about safety, a local resident, who preferred to remain anonymous because “this is such a divisive issue” told QV that she was anxious about going into the centre of town because the streets are busy and pavements narrow. “Take Church St” she said, “the pavements are less than two metres wide and so it’s impossible to maintain the physical distancing advised by the Scottish Government”. She added, “goodness knows what it will be like when the students return in August and September. They come from all over the world, including countries such as the United States where the virus is rampant.”
Photo: Church St, Sunday 12 July 4.20 p.m.
Both the Confederation of St Andrews Residents’ Associations (CSARA) and St Andrews Space for Cycling (SASC) have made suggestions (1, 2) for incorporation into the local Spaces for People programme designed to facilitate safe physical distancing. While these differ in extent, both agree that the speed limit should be reduced to 20 mph with some parking bays removed and some streets closed in the centre of town. The streets in question are shopping streets (Bell St, Church St, Market St) and Queen’s Gardens, heavily used by pedestrians and due to loose one of its footpaths while repairs are undertaken.
BID St Andrews, which represents the interests of local businesses supports the reduction in the speed limit and would be prepared to see some loss of parking spaces, but opposes the closure of any streets. because of its potential impact on businesses. One such business is the bakery Fisher and Donaldson on Church St where Eric Milne, co-director and a long-term opponent of any reduction in parking, asserted that “people cannot shop locally without the availability of parking close to the shops. “If this decision goes ahead, the council will need to live with the fact that they have put the nail in the coffin for many of the local businesses in town.
Emphasising the threat to health, Tony Waterston, a doctor and Chair of SASC, said “The reason for the measures proposed by the council are because we are facing a very serious pandemic which is by no means over. it is essential to maintain space for walking as the traffic builds up and this is the reason for trying to reduce traffic; the numbers of people in the town will increase very rapidly over the summer as tourists and then 8000 students come back and this may be good for business – but very bad for health if they are forced to use narrow pavements.”
Fife Council service manager John Mitchell has responded to the criticisms of the Council’s proposals “The Spaces for People programme …will help the public adhere to the government’s ‘physical distancing’ requirements and support access to essential services, travel and exercise. Often, with limited shop space, queues are typically being seen outside premises, so some street environments may need to change whilst the Covid-19 restrictions are in place.” He continued “Discussions with local members and stakeholders are planned to ensure that projects can be shaped to maximise the benefits to local communities.”
Main photo: Bell St, 4.00 pm 16 July