Traders in one of Aberdeen’s busiest shopping streets have described the end of physical distancing road changes as “the biggest relief ever”.
The city council has announced the full 13-week timetable for removing the controversial Spaces For People works in George Street, Rosemount and Torry.
We earlier reported the one-way systems, bike lanes, white lines and cones would be lifted from George Street over three weeks from Monday, August 9.
Local authority chiefs have now announced Rosemount will be the next for the return to normality, beginning Monday, August 23.
After a further three weeks of work, the temporary road narrowing in Torry’s Victoria Road will be removed over seven days, from Monday, September 13.
Councillors last month agreed to begin removing the temporary road changes which were installed to make it easier for people to maintain 6.5ft distancing in the pandemic.
Improving coronavirus case numbers in the north-east and significant progress in the vaccination programme allowed for the change, public health bosses said.
Funded with a £1.76 million Scottish Government grant through travel charity Sustrans, they were also hoped to increase cycling and walking.
But many other places, including towns around Aberdeenshire, Moray and in the Central Belt, began their removal months ago.
Alan Watt, owner of Belvidere Gallery and a spokesman for trade association Rosemount Rocks, welcomed the news – but wished it had come sooner in the Granite City too.
“My goodness,” he told us. “We are months behind Banchory and other places and I don’t know why it has so long in one of Aberdeen’s busiest shopping areas.
“Customers and delivery workers are driving needlessly around the block, so it has been causing confusion.
“If removal were sooner it would be more beneficial – the parking restrictions in Rosemount Place have already brought the demise of one wee shop.
“But this lifting of the Spaces For People measures will come as the biggest relief ever. We are keen to get back to normal and business as usual.”
Rosemount traders claimed Spaces For People work could cost lives
Unrest in Rosemount prompted senior council officials to meet with business owners concerned for their livelihoods, while safety fears were raised due to the one-way system being “like a race track”.
Removal of the measures in Rosemount, George Street and Torry was promised as early as May, in the final days before the Holyrood election.
But it was tied – along with a three-week bedding in period – to the move to Level 0 in the Granite City.
SNP Midstocket And Rosemount councillor Bill Cormie said: “We are delighted to have a date for the removal but the sooner it happens the better.
“It should have all been undone long before now.
“Aberdeenshire’s towns have been free of this long before now and businesses have lost customers to them – I hope they come back to us.
“We have had residents falling over cones, car crashes caused by the parking in the middle of Rosemount Place – the only good to come of Spaces For People is the planned permanent 20mph zone.”
A council spokeswoman said the order of roadworks had been dictated by other planned disruption in the area.
She added that pedestrian numbers were last month up by 150% compared to the same time last year, while cycling rose around 120%. Car usage had return to approximately 80%.
Remaining Spaces For People work in the city centre – including the pedestrianisation of part of Union Street – will be looked at by councillors next month.
It comes as the future of Union Street could be made clear, with permanent pedestrianisation plans high on the local authority’s wish list alongside a new market development on the site of the empty BHS department store.