Aberdeen City Council’s funding bid to dramatically change Union Street has been approved.
The local authority applied to the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund to ensure the city is safe as it emerges from lockdown and people return to the streets.
It has now confirmed it has secured the £1.76 million grant to go ahead with its plans, which would turn the city’s main thoroughfare into a car-free zone.
It plans to introduce temporary measures along Union Street so it is only open to public transport, cyclists and pedestrians along its entire length from the Castlegate to Holburn Street.
Measures also include pedestrianisation, pavement widening, temporary bike lanes and one-way walking systems.
Work will start in the next few weeks, and the length of time they will remain in place will be determined by NHS and Government guidance.
It is being carried out as the city centre and Union Street in particular faces challenges around social distancing, as the pavements are not wide enough to accommodate 2m between people.
Traffic will be re-routed to free up carriageway space for businesses, pedestrians, cyclists and transport users.
There will also be temporary changes to the road layout and on-street parking to widen pavements on Rosemount, Victoria Road in Torry, Peterculter, Cults, North Deeside Road and George Street.
Additional signage will also be in place.
The council said in later stages of easing lockdown, further changes such as reducing parking spaces may also be required to ensure there is enough space for pedestrians to socially distance, and ensure the numbers of those visiting the city centre is manageable.
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Councillor Jenny Laing said: “We welcome the grant funding which will be used to implement temporary active travel measures, helping to ensure people can walk and cycle during this public health emergency whilst physically distancing and keeping safe from traffic.
“These temporary interventions will help us meet the health and wellbeing needs of residents during this difficult time and will allow people to move safely around Aberdeen which will in turn start the social and economic recovery of the city and the wider region.”
NHS Grampian director of public health Susan Webb added: “This is great news. We were happy to support this bid for funding and see it be successful; it will help make it as easy as possible for people to take exercise and access key services while observing physical distancing.”
Meanwhile, the city centre BID group Aberdeen Inspired also backed the plans.
Chief executive Adrian Watson said: “I am delighted to find that Aberdeen City Council have been successful in their ‘Spaces for People’ funding application. It is to their credit they worked constructively with Aberdeen Inspired and other partners in proactively bringing a plan together that will allow us to open up our great city centre in a safe and pragmatic fashion, and in so doing open up further opportunities for re-visioning the space as we moved forward.”
The measures also aim to increase capacity at community ‘pinch points’ and along popular arterial business and leisure walking and cycling routes, as well as near health facilities, parks, schools and other public buildings.
Aberdeen City Council said it would continue to review, monitor and evaluate the situation when the measures are in place.
The fund was administered by sustainable transport body Sustrans Scotland.
Karen McGregor, director of Sustrans Scotland, said: “It’s clear that people across Scotland want to do the right thing during Coronavirus. They want to look after their physical and mental health.
“They also want to make sure that they are keeping to physical distancing guidelines while still being safe on our streets.
“Providing funding support to Aberdeen City Council through our Spaces for People programme will make it easier and safer for people to travel around their city for essential travel and exercise.”