Stonehaven residents are to embrace a long-awaited “feeling of freedom” when physical distancing measures are scaled back ahead of the summer season.
Barriers and bollards put in place to widen pavements for pedestrians as part of the local authority’s Spaces for People project are expected to be removed next week.
Stonehaven was one of several towns in the north-east, which saw various road closures, one-way systems and parking bans implemented to keep people safe from Covid.
Although some of the measures were removed last year, others were kept in place to provide more space for social distancing.
Now, as local businesses are gearing up to welcome dozens of eager visitors to the seafront, Aberdeenshire Council has confirmed the remaining street instillations are also to be removed.
The new 20mph speed limit and the physical distancing measures along the Promenade will, however, remain in place.
‘Thrilled to have our streets back’
Dawn Black, of Stonehaven Business Association, is hoping the easing of restrictions would encourage more people to visit the town centre in the summer months and support local traders.
She said: “We are delighted that all of the measures will be gone next week, so the town centre will finally regain its parking spaces and things can return to some normality.
“There have been many issues with the measures since they were first installed and it’s very unsightly as well, so to have our streets back is just wonderful.
Delighted to say we’ve had confirmation that the following has been agreed with regard to the current Spaces for People…
“The retain measures at the Promenade are being kept, however, but this is a good thing because it gives so much more space for businesses to carry on with their trade and they have all been in favour of it.”
Ms Black added: “It’s a relief to receive the news ahead of the busier season when people would be able to move around more and businesses can welcome more visitors
“Looking to the future, the hope is that we continue opening up the local economy, people remain sensible when they are out and about and stick to the restrictions we still have, and that we can all just enjoy being free again.”
Changes in Spaces for People measures across the north-east
Following a consultation with councillors and community and business organisations across the north-east, changes and the removal of some Spaces for People measures will also take place in Banchory, Inverurie and Ellon after May 10.
Ian McIntosh, chairman of Banchory Business Association, is hoping to see the town’s last remaining set of bollards removed, after the majority of Banchory’s restrictions were removed in December.
He said: “We provided feedback to the council last week about the one remaining pinch point on High Street which covers two parking spaces.
“It’s outside two businesses, one an evening venue and another a cafe, both of which have been closed since the latest lockdown in December.
“It was relevant at the time but those businesses have been closed for six months so we hope to see it removed as it’s the one remaining blot on the High Street.”
‘Spaces for People measures were always temporary’
Alan Wood, Aberdeenshire Council’s director of infrastructure services, said: “The temporary Spaces for People measures played an important role in keeping people safe during a time of international crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The measures that we put in place were always temporary.
“As restrictions begin to ease, it was appropriate to have discussions about the best way of keeping people safe whilst encouraging continued support to local businesses in our towns.
“Removal of the temporary measures now appears to be the preference in most communities given the changed circumstances – the ongoing reduction in Covid cases, the successful roll out of vaccinations, increased testing and the acceptance by our citizens of the need to observe social distancing.
“In some towns this may require further discussions on the details of how and when the changes will happen but we will see changes from the 10th May.”
All changes are expected to be fully completed by the end of next week – May 17.