A leading Aberdeen councillor has warned colleagues it would be “wrong” to continue controversial physical distancing in the city centre indefinitely – ahead of a crunch meeting this afternoon.
Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill is urging the city growth committee to deny calls from senior officials to leave the Spaces For People works in place for the foreseeable future – claiming to do otherwise would mean the local authority has “gone back on its word”.
We understand other groups on the council were last night still deciding on how they would vote – with differences of opinion on the changes, on the need to still allow beer tents to trade on bus lanes, pavements and in the middle of streets, and on how long “temporary” changes can truly last.
One senior administration figure said there were “mixed views” on the continuation, suggesting their internal group vote would be no foregone conclusion.
But it is expected the vote will be whipped, once the political groups have settled on a position.
Temporary Spaces For People works could remain on Aberdeen’s main street ‘indefinitely’
Originally introduced last summer on a temporary basis, the £1.76 million project has brought about closure of a number of city roads – including the busiest stretch of Union Street for bus users.
Last week, the city’s two biggest bus operators penned a joint letter calling for access to be immediately restored to the Granite Mile.
Town House chiefs have recommended the changes across the centre and West End of Aberdeen should remain until a permanent plan for a roads overhaul is drawn up to minimise upheaval.
It would also allow hospitality businesses to continue outdoor trading, at least until March when Scottish Government flexibility on licensing laws is due to end.
Pedestrianisation, one-way systems, bike lanes and pavement narrowing was rolled out at haste as the scale of the coronavirus emergency became apparent last year.
Council urged to keep word on temporary Spaces For People measures
Councillors today will be decide the future of the measures in Union Street, as well as interventions around Belmont Street, Schoolhill, Upperkirkgate and the West End.
And Mr Yuill, who leads the three-man Liberal Democrat group, told constituents: “People were told when the Spaces For People changes were made at the start of the pandemic that they were only temporary.
“Whatever permanent arrangements are made for Union Street and the rest of the city centre, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I believe it is wrong for the council to try to continue with the Spaces for People changes meantime.
“To do so would mean the council was going back on its word that the changes were a temporary measure for public health reasons.
“While disruption to bus services was an unfortunate consequence of changes made for public health reasons, there can be no excuse for keeping these changes in place any longer than is necessary.
“The Spaces for People changes in our city centre should be removed as soon as possible.”
Mr Yuill added that, as hospitality venues were now allowed people back inside their premises, there was “no justification” for marquees and beer tents to remain on the streets.
It comes as work continues in Rosemount to remove the temporary one-way system there, after George Street was returned to normal earlier in the month.
Torry’s Victoria Road will follow next month.