Where are the public health measures on our streets?

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Eight weeks on from receiving £2.4M for introducing temporary measures  to provide more space for pedestrians to physically distance and to facilitate safe cycling during the Covid-19 pandemic, Fife Council have yet to implement a single measure to protect the public’s health in St Andrews under the Spaces for People scheme, preferring instead to focus on the needs of the town’s businesses – often at the expense of space for pedestrians.

For example, the Parklets Project, part of the Spaces for People initiative, is designed to “assist restaurants/cafes and bars with their outdoor spaces. Utilising some parking spaces where space permits, to ensure that pedestrians can use the pavements safely whilst protecting the business recovery.”

However, Implementation of the project outside the Criterion Bar and the adjacent cafe Zest has reduced space for pedestrians as the 3.5M wide pavement has been blocked (see main picture), 9 parking spaces removed and pedestrians diverted onto the street via a 1.5M channel. Unsurprisingly, at busy times, pedestrians adopt the dangerous practice of walking outside the barrier.

A resident commented, “It would be good to see the same commitment from the Council to put public health measures in place in advance of the official return of university students required to quarantine on 24th August, with the remainder arriving 2 weeks later. All Fife Council does is to hold meetings but never actually does anything.”

Explaining the purpose of the Spaces for People initiative, Councillor Jane Ann Liston explained that the changes would help minimise the chance of Covid-19 spreading, with more space created for pedestrians. She added: “It is true that the pedestrianisation and road closure suggestions are not going ahead just now, but they will be reviewed once the school and university terms start which, added to the continuing tourism season particularly the Edinburgh and Glasgow holiday weekends, results in a September ‘triple whammy’ for St Andrews.”

“The worst possible result would be a corona resurgence shown to have originated in the town. Aberdeen, not so much of a tourism hotspot as St Andrews, serves as an awful warning of what could happen. This must be avoided at all costs.”

Amongst the measures that have been put forward include removing parking on Bell Street and reducing Church Street to single lane to provide extra space for pedestrians.

Fife Council service manager John Mitchell added: “Fife Council has been working closely with the local community and stakeholders in St Andrews to develop proposals to provide greater physical space for the public and businesses within the town. “To date, there have been three meetings of this group which have focused on reaching an agreed position on the measures to take forward.“The proposals include measures to cut back vegetation to afford more useable space and the implementation of temporary physical measures to create greater social distancing space for the public.”

Mr Mitchell continued: “The agreed measures will be implemented as soon as possible to help support communities and businesses during this Covid-19 period.”

St Andrews Q.V.

St Andrews QV (Qui Vive) is an independent not-for-profit, non-political platform for news and debates about issues that are important to the Town. It exists to hold decision makers and public services to account while its editorial policy is to accommodate all shades of opinion from all parts of the community, prioritising evidence-based arguments. St Andrews QV is a member of the Independent Community News Network and is committed to the Community Journalism Charter

3 comments

  1. Public health measures here in St Andrews town centre is a joke.No social distancing can be implement unless going onto the road. Who agreed to allowing cafes,pubs and restaurants to spill onto our pavements?.The whole of the town centre is now being avoided by a vast amount of locals…. myself included.Please help us.

  2. As the owner of Zest Cafe i would like to respond to the above article and to clarify a few points.

    Firstly the 3.5m pavement space mentioned above has had permission for street furniture for over 15 years now and is enjoyed by many locals wishing to sit out and enjoy the sun with no complaints. Due to this we always ensure that the pedestrian space is the 2m from kerbside and hasn’t been 3.5m for over 15yrs.

    The use of the parking spaces (8 not 9 and we did not ask for this to be extended to 14 as Fife Council are planning) was granted to protect businesses and jobs. Previous to covid social distancing restrictions we had a capacity to include 15 tables. With upwards of £2500 spent to ensure compliance and safety for our customers this was reduced to 5/6 or 1/3 capacity. Furthermore the extra safety measures like chemicals/cleaning costs hospitality businesses like our up to an extra £1000 per month in additional labour costs.

    With a rent of over £43,000 per annum the business could not survive with such reduced capacity. The outdoor seating space has literally saved the business (a social enterprise) and the jobs of 14 vulnerable adults. Over 80% of my team have disabilities. If they lost their employment at Zest they would seriously struggle to find another employer, some possibly in their lifetimes, who could/would support their needs. Those people would then move onto benefits and further increase the welfare bill for many years to come. For some their employment is also their main source of support. I would consider this a higher priority than having to walk a little further on a diverted footpath which will only be in place for a few months however i appreciate everyone has different priorities.

    Having owned Zest for over 12 years and worked in the premises for 14years i can attest that even without the pavement redirected the public have still chosen to walk on the road. Whether crossing at all points of the street, parking, loading and unloading cars, walking behind the parked cars etc… The majority of the public have had no problems following the signage from what i have seen so far.

    We appreciate that the red barriers are not the prettiest so have strived to ensure mitigation. To do this we made many wooden Herb planters and purchased more aesthetic barriers to use where we could. Legally compliant signage was purchased, ramps put in place with regular cleaning of the street area carried out. Feedback from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive with many asking to keep this set up. This is in no way our intention, it is temporary and always will be.

    Outdoors is the safest place to avoid COVID transmission. With socially distanced tables and the opportunity to have more outdoor seating using the parking spaces the St Andrews residents have a place to eat out/relax in the safest possible way. Now that we have this safe space set up and working well many of our regulars are returning to town in the knowledge that they can go out safely.

    I sincerely hope that this maybe explains some of the concerns around the temporary changes. I fully appreciate that it is an inconvenience for some however i feel the greater good for the community is overwhelming. Many of our costs and struggles as a business in this climate will not be clear to those who do not work in the industry.

    I am happy to answer any further queries or concerns that anyone may have.

  3. Is it “balanced” journalism when the businesses featured above were not approached for any comment, and facts in the article are misleading/wrong. Also published just a few days after Fife Council dropped off barriers with no guidance? Very different picture a few days after that once we could work on the setup. Business response also not published.

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