The physical distancing measures put in place because of Covid-19 will be relaxed in several north-east towns, the local council has announced.
Aberdeenshire Council is to embark on a carefully planned removal of some elements of its temporary Spaces for People measures, which saw various road closures, one-way systems and parking bans implemented to widen the pavement for pedestrians.
Main pinch points where some of the measures could be eased or removed will be identified in Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Ellon, Inverurie, Turriff, Stonehaven and Banchory.
The decision on the exact approach and further arrangements will be based on ongoing extensive discussions with local communities and business groups within the towns.
Stonehaven is the first to have some easing of the restrictions confirmed, following a meeting earlier this week.
Local MP Andrew Bowie said: “While the Spaces for People programme was implemented with good intentions at the behest of the Scottish government, it hasn’t worked for all Aberdeenshire’s communities.
“Stonehaven is one of a number of towns where the high street and popular areas just aren’t set up for it.
“So, I’m pleased to hear that the views of local businesses and residents have been listened to.”
A meeting was also held in Banchory yesterday, where local councillors and business groups were presented with a proposal for potential amendments to the measures.
Following the review of the pinch points, 95% of the existing restrictions in the town centre are to be removed.
Local residents have been urging the council to change the controversial social distancing measures for several months, saying they have had devastating effect on the income of local shops and businesses.
In July, more than 1,300 signed a petition for the pavement widening measures on High Street and Dee Street to be removed.
Ian McIntosh, chairman of Banchory Business Association, said he is “delighted” to get such positive news after a very long and hard fight.
He said: “The news we’ve received are absolutely phenomenal after so many months of fighting for this.
“When you’ve got a town centre with all of these restrictions, which have had everybody on their knees begging for support that will allow them to function as a business, as they’ve completely and utterly had to change everything at their cost regarding health safety, more staff and other costs, it’s completely natural that they felt let down.
“So for all of these restrictions to be lifted at this point of year, and to be able to give these people almost a month worth of trading right before the holidays, when it’s one of the quietest periods of trade after Christmas, is excellent.
“This would send so much positivity, morale and boost across the town centre and I’m delighted that we can give these people some hope at the end of the year and some normality back to the High Street.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but we hope that this will send a positive message that would drive forward not just the businesses, but the whole town.”