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.”