Businesses in Aberdeen city centre have showed their support for work being carried out to pedestrianise Union Street.
Space on the street is being reallocated, with bus and cycle lanes being reassigned for use as temporary pavements.
It will help pedestrians visit shops, bar and restaurants while adhering to physical distancing guidance once lockdown restrictions lessen.
Business leaders showing their support for the temporary pedestrianisation measures includes Allan Henderson, director of The McGinty’s Group.
He said: “We fully appreciate that these are significant changes being made to the city centre and the project has progressed very quickly in exceptional circumstances.
“It is imperative that hospitality businesses can reopen soon to take advantage of the better weather in the summer months and I feel that the red tape surrounding permissions need to be as simple as possible to allow this.
“With physical distancing measures likely to be in place for a while, licensed premises should be allowed to use outdoor areas to help them recover from the pandemic and bring footfall back in the area.
“Aberdeen City Council should be applauded for their attempts to help city centre businesses and though everything will not be perfect immediately, it is crucial that businesses work together and give constructive feedback as the situation evolves.”
Stuart McPhee, director at Siberia Bar & Hotel, said: “I take the view that the pedestrianisation of Union Street has transformative long-term benefits for the city centre.
“Short term benefits of social distancing during the current pandemic and long-term benefits ranging from air quality improvements to beginning to have a more vibrant city centre.
“For as long as I can remember people have talked Union Street down constantly and here is action that could make it something different, something bold and something new for the city.
“Change is always daunting for people, but during lockdown for example we have all had to change and adapt to things like home working or zoom calls with family.
“Some of these changes will have transformative benefits after lockdown such as improving work life balance and keeping in touch with people better in far flung parts of the world or family you don’t see very often.
“Pedestrianising Union Street may be something that we think of in the first instance as an inconvenience because it changes our journey or we don’t understand it, these issues can be ironed out through consultation and cooperation but in the long run we see the improvement it brings.”
Michal Dobrzansk, general manager of Hop and Anchor, said: ‘In my opinion, Aberdeen city centre would benefit from pedestrianisation.
“In these difficult times, it would allow social distancing to be easier to achieve as well as residents and tourists alike might be more likely to explore the city centre including districts like the sometimes-forgotten Merchant Quarter.
“Being able to offer outside space for businesses that weren’t able to do so thus far might be a game changer as well.”
Craig Stevenson, manager, of the Bon Accord Centre, added: “Making sure our city centre is both safe and welcoming is key to bringing people back into the heart of the city. Creating more space for pedestrians is not only critical from social distancing perspective – it will also help improve the overall experience.”
Businesses in affected areas are being contacted and a guide for businesses on physical distancing is available to download at https://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/services/coronavirus-covid-19/city-centre.
The works on Union Street and nearby streets are being put in place before the next lockdown phases are relaxed so when people start returning to Union Street in larger numbers, the space to allow for physical distancing has already been created.
Aberdeen City Council transport spokeswoman councillor Sandra Macdonald said: “We’re carrying out these works now so when the lockdown eases in the next phases, people going to the city centre shops, restaurants and bars and local residents will be able to physically distance straight away.
“The measures we’ve put in including pedestrianisation of some streets are being carried out to help protect the health and wellbeing of residents and help the NHS as the country moves out of lockdown.
“Similar measures are being carried out in other cities and towns as part of a concerted effort across Scotland to reduce transmission of COVID-19.
“People will be able to walk around and queue for shops and eateries safely around Aberdeen city centre away from traffic which in turn will help the social and economic recovery of the city.”