Fife Council appears ready to abandon measures introduced in St Andrews town centre to enable compliance with Scottish Government physical distancing guidance in response to pressure from local businesses, following a campaign led by BID St Andrews.
Following the introduction of measures to enable physical distancing with Sustrans Spaces for People money, Fife Council has bowed to pressure from local businesses to remove most if not all the barriers that have been erected to provide space on the roads for pedestrians and cyclists. QV understands that this decision has been made by Councillor Altany Craik, Convenor of the Economy, Tourism, Strategic Planning and Transportation Committee without consultation with the Town’s elected representatives.
Welcoming the decision, Chair of BID St Andrews, Louise Fraser, wrote on BID’s facebook page: ‘Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to support our petition or leave positive feedback on various Facebook pages and in stores about the barriers currently positioned around town. BID St Andrews is delighted to announce that, after much lobbying and a very fruitful meeting in town this morning with representatives from Fife Council, the barriers in Market Street shall be removed. The barriers in South Street will be reviewed and we are awaiting clarification on Bell Street and Market Street. Well done.’
This follows a concerted campaign led by BID to prevent the measures being put in place claiming that they were unnecessary on public health grounds and would ruin the Town’s economy because of the loss of parking spaces for shoppers. However, BID has been supportive of measures introduced to create additional space for cafes, restaurants and pubs, allowing them to spread onto the pavements and adjacent parking spaces, a process which has resulted in the loss of more some 25 spaces on South St alone.
Responding to the reversal in policy, Professor Richard Olver, emeritus professor of child health and a town centre resident, said: “I am frankly dismayed to learn that a decision has been taken, without further consultation with any stakeholders other than BID St Andrews, to remove most, if not all, the Spaces for People measures put in place in St Andrews over the last couple of days in response to pressure from local traders. I believe this to be totally irresponsible and will render safe physical distancing impossible at busy times – forcing people either to rub shoulders or walk into the road. Given the upsurge in coronavirus cases in Fife, as elsewhere, the timing could not be worse. ”
“Even at this late stage I would urge consultation with NHS Fife Public Health in order to ensure that the public health aspect of any decision is taken fully into consideration. Also, consultation with local elected representatives to ensure that there is an element of local democracy in reaching a decision which will affect us all.”
David Middleton, Chair of the Confederation of St Andrews Residents Associations commented “I understand that following representations from the business community, some of the physical distancing arrangements put in place in the St Andrews town centre are to be reviewed. I trust that this will not happen before proper consideration takes place of the prime purpose for these arrangements – the health and wellbeing of residents and visitors to the town.”
So far, there has been no public statement from NHS Fife Public Health, nor has the University accepted that it has any responsibility in the matter even though many of its students live in the centre of town, which they regard as part of the campus, and contribute significantly to the overcrowding on pavements, often walking in groups.