Council bosses have agreed to remove controversial street furniture from Perth High Street and reopen it to traffic, after a fierce backlash from shopkeepers.
Wooden planters and benches, described by critics as “tattie boxes” and blamed for an 80% downturn in trade at nearby stores, were installed earlier this summer as part of a £1.1 million scheme to make the city safer after lockdown.
Perth and Kinross Council also pedestrianised a section between Scott Street and Methven Street and removed parking bays in an effort to help with social distancing.
The changes were made using emergency powers, with next to no consultation with business owners and residents.
Now, after six weeks of complaints, the local authority has bowed to pressure from furious locals and promised to remove the parklets and reintroduce traffic.
The decision was revealed in a tweet by a council officer involved with the city’s regeneration plan.
Redevelopment Projects Officer Mike Morgan said in the now-deleted post: “Testing out ideas is not failure. Failure is not learning from your mistakes.”
He said the wooden features would be moved to businesses that said they could use them.
Traders were told of the revised plan at a virtual meeting with Perth and Kinross Council representatives on Wednesday evening.
A council spokesman said: “We have been engaging with businesses in Perth High Street about their concerns over some of the changes we introduced.
“In response to their concerns, and after a re-assessment of safety measures, we are re-introducing vehicle access and some parking in Perth High Street, whilst introducing alternative traffic calming measures, with outdoor spaces for businesses which request this.”
He added: “Designs of these alterations will be shared with businesses before we make the changes, and once agreed, this work will be carried out as quickly as we can whilst maintaining public safety.”
Imran Javid of Mobile Solutions, who led a petition against the changes, said: “I am very relieved they have taken this decision. It has been very damaging for us.
“We’ve been told these boxes will be taken away in the next week or two.”
He said: “We did not want them, but they put them right outside our shop. It just seemed like a real waste of public money.”
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, who last week described the structures as “tattie boxes” and urged the council to rethink its plan, said: “I had been contacted by many traders and property owners in the High Street who were very concerned about the parklets plan, so it is good to know that common sense has prevailed.”
Perth City Centre SNP councillor Eric Drysdale said he was pleased that the revised plans had been “broadly welcomed” by businesses.
He said: “We have come up with a solution that helps traders, including those pubs and cafes that would benefit from outside space, while also importantly introducing traffic calming measures that will improve road safety.”
Local SNP MP Pete Wishart said: “I completely understand that there are some businesses who can utilise the extended retail space to generate extra revenue, and I think that any business who thinks they can make use of the parklets should feel free to request one, but it was clear that they were not suitable in every setting.”