North-east traders have hailed plans to remove Spaces for People measures as an “early Christmas present”.
Aberdeenshire Council secured a grant of more than £300,000 from the Scottish Government’s for the scheme to help with physical distancing.
The local authority introduced a raft of measures to increase space on pavements using cones, introducing one way systems and new speed limits.
The immediate priority was given to town centres in Banchory, Ellon, Fraserburgh, Inverurie, Peterhead and Stonehaven.
But they did not go down well with everyone with people in Stonehaven launching a petition against the move which attracted more than 800 signatures.
Now, Aberdeenshire Council is to remove some of the measures put in place in the summer and will work with businesses across the region on the move.
The local authority said they trying to identify so-called pinch points in towns and once those have been pinpointed, they will take the restrictions away.
Stonehaven Business Association (SBA) have welcomed the move and said it comes at the ideal time ahead of the festive period.
Dawn Black from the group said: The SBA are absolutely delighted that the Spaces for People measures in Stonehaven are to be reduced to just the areas that really need them where queues form and in time for people to shop locally for their Christmas shopping.
“Our local shops will see the benefit of this as people, especially the elderly and less able will be able to park outside the shops they need to visit once again.
“We are fortunate to have very low numbers of Covid-19 in Stonehaven and encourage people visiting the town centre to continue to be courteous to other pavement users, remain vigilant in their hand hygiene and mask-wearing to keep our local levels low.
“It’s a great early Christmas present to local businesses from Aberdeenshire Council.”
Fraserburgh councillor Brian Topping has also welcomed moves to remove some of the restrictions in the town.
He said: “For the last few weeks the councillors in Fraserburgh have been raising this issue to get them taken away.
“We are delighted it is going to happen. Some shops have had a lot of hardship in recent months and this will be a help to them.
“I would urge all of us to shop local this Christmas.”
Ellon and district councillor Isobel Davidson has welcomed moves to change the restrictions in the historic market town.
She said: “I am pleased that there is a proposal to review the Spaces for People measures. There are a few pinch points in Ellon that still need to have public safety as a priority and there is a lot of support for the town centre to remain as a 20mph zone.
“There needs to be proper consultation with local people about what they would like to town centre to look like, this may be the time to introduce features which encourages more walking and cycling but it needs to be done in conjunction with residents and businesses.”
Stonehaven councillor Wendy Agnew said: “I have for some time held the view that the barriers should be removed as soon as possible to attract customers back into the town for retail and other business, not least by virtue of releasing additional parking spaces.
“Thanks must go to the people in Stonehaven for observing the safety protocols thus assisting Stonehaven to remain in a low tier of infection.”
Meanwhile, Rediscover Peterhead business improvement district said they planned to consult with their members on the Spaces for People plans.
Aberdeenshire Council said they first considered the removal of the town centre restrictions in September but did not go ahead with this after coronavirus infections began to rise.
Stephen Archer, the authority’s director of infrastructure services, said: “The part or complete removal of Spaces for People measures remains a sensitive and complex issue. I would like to stress that public safety remains our key priority and we will continue to review all changes in the interest of public health within our communities.”
“Each and every one of us continues to play a vital role in suppressing this virus. Individuals and businesses will all need to take a precautionary approach to ensure they play their part in ensuring the 2m physical distancing is maintained at all times in our town centres.”