Response to covid “a failure of duty of care”

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In response to pressure from local businesses and a campaign led by BID (Business Improvement District) St Andrews, Fife Council  have abandoned some of the public health measures introduced in the town centre in recent days, measures designed to enable compliance with Scottish Government Covid-19 physical distancing guidance.

Only days after the installation of barriers to provide more space on the roads for pedestrians and cyclists using funding from the Sustrans Spaces for People scheme, Fife Council has bowed  to pressure from local businesses and removed the barriers in Market St,  and more removals are likely to follow. This decision was made by Councillor Altany Craik, Convenor of the Economy and Transportation Committee, following a site visit with BID members but without consultation with the Town’s elected representatives or, as far as is known, NHS Fife.

The U-turn follows a concerted campaign by local businesses 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 removal of parking spaces for shoppers. At the same time, BID has supported measures which remove parking provided they creates additional space for cafes, restaurants and pubs to spread onto the roads.

Responding to news of the reversal in policy, Professor Richard Olver,  a doctor and town centre resident, said: “I am frankly shocked to learn that during a public health emergency, the measures designed to help pedestrians negotiate the streets safely are being removed with minimal consultation. Prioritising business interests at the expense of the health needs of the public is surely wrongheaded. After all, neither residents nor visitors will not want to shop in the town centre if they do not feel safe.”

“Coronavirus is spread by droplets and aerosols and, while it is true that the risks of contracting Covid outdoors are less than indoors, the extent of a vapour cloud from an e-cigarette demonstrates just how far a breath can travel and how easy it would be to inhale virus particles from an infected person.”

“With an outbreak of coronavirus in the University and evidence of its presence in the local community, the timing could not be worse and it is surprising that  NHS Fife has remained silent on this issue. It’s failure to back Spaces  for People and Fife Council’s inadequate implementation represent a collective failure of duty of care to the town’s residents and visitors.”

David Middleton, Chair of the Confederation of St Andrews Residents Associations (CSARA) 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 have been reversed. I trust that this decision will be reconsidered giving proper consideration of the prime purpose for these arrangements – the health and wellbeing of residents and visitors to the town.”

“This is not an issue which should be resolved by dictat or the influence of one pressure group. It is a key is concern for everyone in the town. A solution which both allays business fears and produces safe and attractive streets for their customers can be achieved. Suggestions to enable this to happen have been sent by CSARA to Fife Council, local councillors and business organisations. It now requires leadership from the decision-makers to secure an outcome which allows people to shop with safety.”

Tony Waterston, Chair of St Andrews Space for Cycling (SASC) said: “SASC supports strongly the parking restrictions in St Andrews’ central streets which were put in place to increase the space available on pavements which have become heavily crowded with the return of students to the town. These measures do not benefit cycling, but we recognise that they are required to enable adequate social distancing. We believe that it is a myth that less parking means less shoppers and, in any case, there is plenty of parking available within a short distance of the town centre. The Council should show that it is committed to putting the public’s health first and continue with the parking restrictions which have been instituted on a temporary basis only.”

Picture: Market St 10th October after the removal of barriers

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

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