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Spaces For People: Safety fears re-emerge as permanent Aberdeen roads overhaul considered

A car driving through Schoolhill, which is closed to motorists. Picture by Kath Flannery/DCT Media.

Ever-changing roads in Aberdeen city centre have prompted safety concerns – as motorists flout rules and drive through a pedestrianised street.

Wooden benches, enormous plant pots and some barriers have been removed from Upperkirkgate and Schoolhill – but it remains closed to motorists.

It comes as city officials map a way out of the ongoing traffic upheaval – while asking for key city centre sights to remain closed off until permanent transformational plans are made.

Signs at either end of Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate highlight the prohibition, enforced between 6pm and 10am.

Spaces For People measures were removed in Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate last week. Photo by Katherine Ferries.
Spaces For People measures were removed in Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate last week. Photo by Katherine Ferries.

The doubt has left pedestrians – who have grown used to the prolonged closure introduced last summer – at risk as cars roll through what should be a safe space for them.

Council roads officials say the number of cars breaking the rules is “limited” but a steady stream has been witnessed by Aberdeen Journals staff.

It had also been revealed “supply issues” of signs and “many” other pieces of roads kit have left council staff with “little they can change”.

The benches and other fixtures, which acted as a visual deterrent for motorists, have been removed as the local authority makes room for the Christmas Village in the coming weeks.

Spaces For People: A controversial Covid safety measure

Originally they were brought in as part of a £1.76 million physical distancing project to increase space for people during the pandemic.

Local traders have hit out at the closure, complaining it left customers facing a labyrinth just to find the way to their door.

Councillor Michael Hutchison has raised safety concerns about motorists driving through the closed off section of Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate.
Councillor Michael Hutchison has raised safety concerns about motorists driving through the closed off section of Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate.

SNP councillor Michael Hutchison said: “I understand that some barriers have been moved aside to make way for a Christmas village but until that’s in place there’s nothing to stop cars driving through.

“I’ve asked the council and police about what can be put in place because, even if it’s only for a few more days, it’s just not safe.”

“Whatever people’s thoughts on this closure, it’s dangerous to have a situation where people think a space is pedestrianised and drivers think otherwise.”

Council officials have since admitted the rule-breaking has been “a frustration” since the closures were introduced – and one they have involved police in solving.

“The measures are expected to be removed shortly to accommodate a change in traffic flows due to the winter village,” the officer added.

“Publicity is being put in place to advise drivers about the changes for the village and in the interim, I hope that those drivers who are inadvertently travelling through the area in the interim are doing so with care and attention to the pedestrians who have taken to the pedestrianised nature of the area.”

Spaces For People pavement extensions up Union Street could be gone by the end of the month

Councillors will vote on whether to temporarily remove the temporary pedestrianisation of Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate at a meeting on Friday – only to bring it back – temporarily – in January.

Meanwhile, roads bosses are suggesting remaining Spaces For People physical distancing measures on Union Street – outside of the Market Street to Bridge Street section – should be lifted by the end of the month.

Wooden pavement extensions in Union Street could be gone by the end of the month, if councillors vote through the next review of Spaces For People in Aberdeen.
Wooden pavement extensions in Union Street could be gone by the end of the month, if councillors vote through the next review of Spaces For People in Aberdeen.

It would bring an end to the wooden pavement extensions up the length of the Granite Mile bus lanes, which have been blamed for a number of city centre falls.

That closure, along with the upheaval around Belmont Street and Back Wynd, would be maintained while permanent plans are drawn up as part of the £150m city centre masterplan refresh.

Roads changes at the beach could also be kept in place until the future of the seafront is agreed too.

Councillors will vote on the proposals at a meeting on Friday.

All you need to know ahead of crunch council meeting on new Dons stadium and Union Street’s future

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