Business owners in Perth are praying active travel changes made during lockdown will be made permanent.
A transformation of city and town streets took place last year thanks to the Scottish Government backed Spaces for People programme.
It saw increased pedestrianisation and lower speed limits in a bid to encourage walking and cycling.
The measures are meant to be temporary, but traders hope Perth and Kinross Council (PKC) take heed from Dundee and make them permanent.
The local authority is carrying out a review of the feasibility of this.
‘It’s been a life saver’
One business which has benefited by the extra space is That Bar Lounge, on South Street.
The section of road outside their door now has a patio which has doubled their outdoor capacity.
Operations director Craig Fraser described it as a “life saver” while indoor alcohol sales were banned — although it almost did not happen.
Initially, the whole stretch of road was earmarked for a patio, but after one business pulled out it looked like That Bar Lounge would lose out.
“We had to fight for it, but once we made our case the council were brilliant,” Craig said.
“The seating we had before wasn’t enough to keep us going. This has more than doubled our capacity.
“We would love to have this permanently. It has worked for us and hasn’t been an issue for the traffic.”
Craig has been told they can keep the patio until October.
‘Weather has been atrocious’
Colin Bell, owner of The Bunker pub, also on South Street, has also enjoyed added outdoor seating.
However, he feels typical Scottish weather has hampered its potential.
“It worked out well last year during the summer, but since we have reopened this year the weather has been atrocious.
“It’s a lot of a hassle taking the seating and tables in and out every day, but we’ve got to hope for the best and that it will pick up.
“Our food is only just getting going, although we’ve had some good reviews already, so hopefully that will help.”
Felicity Graham, of PALS (Perth Area Living Streets), is delighted at the improved crossing on Charlotte Street — one Perth’s most congested streets.
The Spaces for People project saw more space on the refuge island for pedestrians and cyclists.
It has since been made permanent — the only Spaces for People change in Perth so far.
“I am delighted with how it is now. It has always been a dangerous spot, but now a child can navigate it safely by themselves.
“I think the Spaces for People project is brilliant and there should be more of it in Perth.
“Some of the measures have been taken away. I fear that councillors listen to the complainers more, even if they are outnumbered by the silent majority.”
It wasn’t always this rosy
While several business owners have praised Spaces for People in Perth, it wasn’t always this way.
A petition calling on the restoration of parking spaces on High Street gathered dozens of signatures.
The council quickly acted and took away most of the barriers there.
But not everyone is happy with the current situation.
The council has to look after businesses.”
Linda Byers, Byers & Co
Linda Byers, of George Street jewellers Byers & Co, fears the lack of parking near her shop is hurting footfall.
“Our customers don’t come in on bikes or walk. I would like to see the parking back as it was before.
“The council has to look after businesses.”
‘A better balance’
Lori McGaffney, vice president of Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, welcomes the principle of Spaces for People but fears not enough consultation was carried out.
“Some businesses have benefitted, such as bars and restaurants with extra outdoor seating, but some people have been complaining about the lack of consultation and taking away parking.
“These type of changes need to be transparent.
“There will be some business owners who are worried about the prospect of these changes being made permanent.
“There is surely a better balance to be struck when carrying it out.”
Will the changes stay?
A council spokeswoman said that if changes were to be made permanent, businesses would have to go through the planning process.
She said the local authority is open to this happening.
“We are currently carrying out a review of what resources would be required and will speak with the businesses and communities directly affected to determine what is achievable in the future.”