Aberdeenshire Council to make major project bid to ensure safe physical distancing in town centres

Aberdeenshire Council will make an initial £310,000 application to the ‘Spaces for People’ fund for a new project to ensure people are able to safely access services in town centres while maintaining physical distancing.

In April, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, announced a new £10 million ‘Spaces for People’ fund for local authorities and regional transport partnerships, which has recently been increased to £30 million.

This funding will cover 100% of the cost of temporary infrastructure projects to provide safe walking, wheeling and cycling during the current emergency. Immediate priority is to be given to the town centres in Banchory, Ellon, Fraserburgh, Inverurie, Peterhead and Stonehaven.

Aberdeenshire Council will submit proposals to create additional spaces for pedestrians to   observe physical distancing in Aberdeenshire town centres as they begin to reopen.

Temporary traffic orders will be promoted for each of the designated town centre areas for the duration of the physical distancing requirements where potential temporary measures may include widening footpaths by setting out in the carriageway, waiting restrictions, road restrictions or closures and reduction of speed limits

Head of Transportation Ewan Wallace explained: “The priority will be to ensure that people are able to access our town centres safely while adhering to physical distancing guidelines.

“In particular, officers are looking at interventions that can be applied to main town centres to ensure that there is sufficient space to allow for queueing at shops and bus stops whilst maintaining passage by pedestrians with physical distancing.

“Footways of two metres or less will not be adequate to accommodate a queue at a shop or bus stop and passing pedestrians. Ideally, three metres or more should be provided at these locations.

The proposals for the town centres are only the first phase of the introduction of measures to adapt the transport network to the “new normal” as lockdown restrictions are eased. Further proposals will be developed in consultation with our communities as the council looks at the impact that ongoing restrictions will have on the way we travel and the opportunities to build in improvements.

During the Covid-19 lockdown there has been a noticeable increase in walking and cycling both in urban and rural areas of Aberdeenshire as people take advantage of the quieter transport network to undertake daily exercise.

Transport demand has fallen dramatically due to Government guidance to stay at home to suppress the spread of coronavirus which has resulted in far less motorised traffic using the road network.

This has in turn resulted in an increase in walking and cycling on the network as people have sought opportunities to undertake their daily exercise.

Mr Wallace explains: “It is reasonable to predict that as the road network becomes busier when lockdown restrictions are eased, the levels of active travel may revert to previous levels.

“Officers are exploring a range of innovative options on how to retain the levels of active travel currently and also support a longer-term mode shift from car use to active travel for shorter journeys.”