St Andrews businesses have condemned plans to strip 69 parking spaces from the town centre to aid social distancing.
Fife Council has been accused of “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut” after it announced 34 bays would be removed from Market Street, 24 from South Street and 11 from West Port to provide more space for pedestrians.
The temporary measures will come into force at the end of this month following a £2.4 million award from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund, designed to make walking and cycling safer during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bakery boss Eric Milne, of Fisher and Donaldson, said the measures were “marginally better” than an initial proposal to close several town centre streets to traffic, but fears older customers in particular will be forced to shop elsewhere.
“I still think it’s a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut when we’re moving into winter and there will be fewer people on the streets,” he said.
“My fear is we have a lot of older customers who come in their cars but if you reduce parking you force them to out of town supermarkets with large car parks.
“Our trading is already well down on our usual figures and I can only see it getting worse.”
The council said the measures would provide space to protect public health and support physical distancing, while promoting cycling and walking to help cut carbon emissions.
While Mr Milne’s view is shared by a number of other business people, many residents have welcomed the proposals.
Local councillors have pledged to keep an eye on the situation.
Labour member Brian Thomson said: “I can understand the concerns expressed by some businesses regarding the loss of parking spaces, and I also recognise the concerns that have been expressed by many residents regarding the difficulty in physical distancing in the town centre, which is causing some to completely avoid the area.
“It’s a really difficult situation — some businesses are struggling and some people have lost their jobs…however, at the same time, it’s undoubtedly difficult to physically distance in the town centre and the clear advice from the Scottish Government is to avoid crowded places.
“The arrival of over 9,000 students has made physically distancing even more difficult and, with Covid-19 infection rates seemingly on the rise again, efforts need to be made to reduce the risks of further spreading the virus and the imposition of a local lockdown.
“It’s clear that there is no consensus view on what’s best for the town centre but the measures Fife Council is now set to install appear to be a reasonable compromise, which could be easily and quickly altered or removed if found to not be working.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Jane Ann Liston said the proposals appeared to strike a good balance but they should be kept under review.
“I will follow developments with interest, and will not hesitate to challenge the situation should the circumstances require it,” she said.