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‘We’ve never seen anything like this’: St Andrews traders call for removal of road barriers before Christmas shopping period

Traders are questioning the need for the imposing barriers
Traders are questioning the need for the imposing barriers

St Andrews businesses are calling for the removal of controversial town centre barriers before the crucial pre-Christmas trading period.

Shopkeepers have asked for evidence the public is actually using the temporary pedestrian walkways, amid fears they have caused a slump in trade that could result in job losses.

The red and white plastic barriers were erected by Fife Council at the start of October to aid social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

They were part of a package of measures implemented by the council following a £2.4 million award from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People scheme.

Barriers on Market Street were swiftly removed following an outcry from traders over the loss of car parking.

More will be taken from South Street next week following discussions with businesses there.

However, they are still in place in Church Street and Bell Street, with council and public health officials saying they are crucial in the fight against Covid-19.

Businesses say they understand the need to keep shoppers safe but have yet to see data proving the measures are necessary, particularly as the busy summer months are over.

Some have reported a 50% drop in trade compared to last year and a further reduction since the implementation of Spaces for People.

It is simply a slap in the face for the wealth of independently-owned small businesses in St Andrews.”

Eric Milne, owner of Fisher and Donaldson

Six shops have closed for good since lockdown began and many fear further devastation if urgent action is not taken.

A sign on South Street, St. Andrews, warning of parking restrictions for the Spaces For People measures.

Louise Fraser, business owner and chair of St Andrews BID, said: “Each and every business in town has been working hard to ensure they deliver a safe environment for all those visiting their premises by monitoring the number of shoppers in store, providing hand sanitisers, wearing face coverings etc.

“Our major frustration is that Fife Council is unable to provide us with any idea of what outcomes they are expecting from the installation of the barriers and that there is an apparent lack of urgency to resolve the situation.

“The run up to Christmas is a crucial time for most retail businesses.”

Fisher and Donaldson owner Eric Milne added: “Our 100-year-old family business has stood on the same street of St Andrews for 60 years and we have never seen anything like this.

“Covid has hit retail extremely hard and to have a further blow of large sections of town centre parking removed, it is simply a slap in the face for the wealth of independently-owned small businesses in St Andrews.

“We are now seeing the streets of the town get quieter whilst the weather gets colder and these measures are simply unnecessary.

“They are in fact damaging to local businesses and are driving shoppers out of town.”

“By promoting physical distancing and the two-metre rule we’re helping people to spend safely locally and helping to prevent Covid-19 transmission.”

John Mitchell, Fife Council.

Lucy Denvir, consultant in public health with NHS Fife, said public safety and reducing the transmission of Covid is the priority.

“Last week Fife moved into Level 3 of the Scottish Governments national restrictions, reflecting the increase of cases and transmission rate across Fife. To avoid moving into Level 4 we cannot be complacent.

“Although there is less risk outside, there are still risks. This means people must always maintain a 2 metres distance – including when walking around town or queuing to get into shops.”

John Mitchell, the council’s sustainable transport manager, said the authority is helping the NHS save lives by making it safer to travel around St Andrews.

“By promoting physical distancing and the two-metre rule we’re helping people to spend safely locally and helping to prevent Covid-19 transmission,” he said.

“Temporary measures are in place in the town to help keep everyone safe, and create more space for people to walk, cycle and wheel.”

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