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Major road changes outlined for George Street in Aberdeen in latest physical distancing work

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Major new work to make extra space for pedestrians on a busy Aberdeen street will get under way on Monday.

George Street is to be the next part of the city to undergo work to allow better physical distancing.

The council unveiled the plans for the residential and shopping area last night, ahead of work beginning in the coming days.

The plans will bring about significant change in the area, including a one-way system from Maberly Street to the top of the pedestrianised zone at St Andrew Street.

And a contraflow cycle lane will be set up heading north, against the flow of traffic.

George Street Traders’ Association chairman Stuart Milne said that, while not welcomed by all, he thought the work was “necessary” to enable businesses to open up once more.

The general manager of Finnies The Jewellers said: “I personally have marshalled customers at the door of the shop to enable them to enter the store safely.

“On several occasions, I stepped off the pavement into the road to allow the safe passage on the pavement of passers-by, elderly, mothers with prams and disability scooters.

“I should not be asking staff members to do this when there is risk of being knocked down by a vehicle.

“We have to welcome the initiative with the narrow pavements in George Street and look forward to customers feeling safe in these surroundings to return to visit some of the amazing businesses we enjoy in the George Street area.”

Council transport spokeswoman Sandra Macdonald said: “It’s great the works in the George Street are starting as we’ve been working with the George Street Traders’ Association, the local community council, and local councillors on the plans.

“The measures we’re putting in may be modified again as we continue to speak with these groups and local residents, to gauge how the arrangements work when people continue to return to the area for shopping and leisure.”

The George Street And Harbour councillor added: “Many people already walk and cycle in the area, going to the local shops or on their way to the city centre.

“These interventions will enable pedestrians to physically distance and help prevent the spread of coronavirus, while at the same time support the local economy as lockdown eases.”

North of the one-way system, the road will remain open to two-way traffic although all parking – other than disabled bays – will be removed between Maberly Street and Hutcheon Street.

Parking will still be allowed on the east side of George Street between Maberly Street and St Andrew Street and other displaced vehicles are being encouraged to look in Maberly Street, Catherine Street and Gerrard Street for spare spots.

But those motorists will also be asked to contend with a one-way system in Maberly Street from Skene Square to George Street, to make way for a new cycle contraflow lane which will be shared with pedestrians next to the Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Another one-way order in place from George Street to Charlotte Street on St Andrew Street with a bus and cycle lane in the other direction.

Planners will also extend the city centre’s 20mph speed limit zone to the junctions between John Street and Skene Square, Maberly Street and Skene Square, George Street and Hutcheon Street and the Mounthooly roundabout.

There will be a number of bus stops moved, while more bike stands, seating and greenery is to be rolled out to help mark the extended pavements.

The temporary changes are to be funded through the Spaces For People project, which is a ring-fenced £1.76 million grant from the Scottish Government.

Council planners have spent the last month changing road layouts to make room for people to walk safely while others queue for entry to businesses.

It is also hoped hospitality traders can make the most of some of the reclaimed space by setting up tables outside.

Work has not come without controversy, with outrage in both the city centre and Rosemount areas of the city as changes were introduced.

Due to the pandemic, and the emergency nature of the safety work, council staff have been able to make the changes with much less consultation than usual.

After huge uproar in the city centre due to the rapid roll-out, more consultation has been carried out with businesses and residents in Rosemount and George Street.

Last night Health Secretary Jeane Freeman urged people to embrace all the safety measures.

The cabinet secretary, who was joined by a number of the country’s leading business voices in her calls, warned: “Covid-19 cases in Scotland are currently very low thanks to everyone’s collective efforts.

“But as we lift the measures that have kept it under control, the risks of transmission increase again.

“It stands to reason that as we start to interact more, we provide more opportunities for the virus to spread.”