Neighbourhood Spaces for People interventions to be removed after Aberdeen is at Level 0

Three temporary neighbourhood Spaces for people interventions which were introduced to increase space for pedestrians due to coronavirus 2m physical distancing are to be removed after Aberdeen is at Level 0 of the Scottish Government’s route map.

Aberdeen City Council’s city growth and resources committee agreed to the move for Rosemount, Torry and George Street today after recommendations from the Director of Public Health for NHS Grampian said it would support the removal of the measures due to improved public health position and significant vaccination coverage.

The timetable for the removal is they would start three weeks after the move to Level 0 and they will take approximately 13 weeks to remove. The Scottish Government has indicated it expects mainland Scotland to move to Level 0 on 19 July.

The Union Street Spaces for People interventions will be reported to city growth and resources committee in August as part to the City Centre Masterplan review along with the BHS and Market Buildings proposals.

Aberdeen City Council city growth and resources committee convener Councillor Ryan Houghton said: “It is fantastic that due to the improved public health position and significant vaccination coverage we can remove the neighbourhood Spaces for People interventions when we’re at Level 0.

“It has been a difficult time for many people and it is thanks to the public for continuing to stick with the physical distancing, mask-wearing, lockdowns, vaccinations, and all the other measures to combat Covid-19 that we’re in this position.”

Aberdeen City Council transport spokesperson Councillor Sandra Macdonald said: “Having served their purpose, it is time to pack away the striped bollards, temporary signage, water-filled barriers, and pavement extensions.

“Public feedback through walkabouts, community councils, local business networks and on-line questionnaires all shaped the temporary measures that were put in place to help pedestrians to physically distance across the city during the pandemic. Residents and businesses have had to adapt, and to adapt again, over the past year and it will be some months before all the works to re-establish the affected streets and pavements are complete.

“Those elements of the Spaces for People measures which gained public support can then be revisited to ensure better sustainable transport initiatives are designed and delivered to make travel to, and in and around, Aberdeen safer, healthier and more climate friendly.”

The report to committee said data collection has continued to show increased levels of pedestrians and cyclists using recreational routes and recreational destinations. Pedestrian levels are about 150% compared to the same time last year, cyclist levels are about 120%, and car usage is about 80%.

The Spaces for People interventions had continued support from both Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue and the report noted that council officers continue to work with the emergency services to ensure that the interventions do not impact on their service provision.

The temporary Spaces for People works were carried out after a ringfenced £1.76million grant from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund which is being administered by Sustrans. They were designed to protect public health by reducing COVID-19 transmission in the city by allowing pedestrians to do 2m of physical distancing, allow people to continue to use active travel such as walking and cycling, and further help the economic recovery of the city.

The city centre, and Union Street in particular, faces challenges because pavements are not wide enough to accommodate 2m level of physical distancing.

The program of works was developed with NHS Grampian, transport organisation NESTRANS, and Business Improvement District operator Aberdeen Inspired, and organisations which have been consulted include city centre businesses, bus companies, taxi firms, Police Scotland, the Disability Equity Partnership, and other local groups. The Spaces for People interventions had to be installed quickly due to the nature of Covid-19 and changes were made to them afterwards due to the short installation timescale.