St Andrews businesses fear changes to streets could be ‘final blow’

St Andrews businesses could be ‘dealt a final blow’ if plans to change major roads through the town are given the green light.

Friday, 10th July 2020, 9:50 am
Market Street, St Andrews. (Picture: Peter Adamson)

Fife Council has proposed a road closure at West Port, removing parking on Bell Street and Church Street, and closing off Market Street to vehicles, as part of a package of changes across the Kingdom, after the local authority was awarded £2.4 million from Sustrans to make active travel in the town safer.

However, local businesses and politicians have criticised the plans and the consultation process.

It is feared that some of the town’s businesses, already reeling because of the impact of Covid-19, could close if the changes are made.

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Jane Kennedy, manager at BID St Andrews, said: “The ‘Spaces for People’ project, was meant to fund projects to make it safer for those who choose to walk, cycle or wheel during their essential trips and exercise during the Covid 19 crisis.

“St Andrews already offers ample space in and around town where people can exercise safely.

“With measures such as speed reduction, common sense and temporary widening of pedestrian walkways, most issues can be addresses safely and without a huge impact on businesses and residents.

“However, if proposals such as the long term road closures are given the go ahead, our businesses, who are already fighting for survival due to Covid-19, will be dealt a final blow.

“How can local residents support businesses if they can’t access them? These are punitive measures which will have long term repercussions on our local economy.”

Lyanna Winter of the Cook Central, raised concerns about the consultation process.

She warned: “To be frank, without the retail sector there is no town centre, there is no attraction for the St Andrews residents, students and those visiting the town. They will simply spend their money elsewhere. Jobs will be lost, businesses will fail or relocate elsewhere and the St Andrews that we all know and love will be lost forever.”

Eric Milne, co-director of bakery Fisher and Donaldson, said the store had lost custom on the Saturdays when Market Street has hosted the farmers’ market, because of the lack of parking.

He warned that people can not shop locally without the availability of parking close to the shops.

Mr Milne added: “We have been in business in St Andrews for over 60 years and to think the council can make a decision of this magnitude at what has been the most difficult time for our business in its 100-year history, is quite frankly a smack in the face.

“If this decision goes ahead, the council will need to live with the fact that they have put the nail in the coffin for many of the local businesses in town. This decision will drive more people out of town to shop and will also have a detrimental effect on the number of visitors coming to the town.”

Local councillor Brian Thomson called the plans for Church Street and Bell Street “complete non-starters” and said that minor changes, done with consultation with local businesses, could help.

“At a time when businesses are trying to recover from the lockdown, it’s not the time to be progressing such significant changes,” he added.

Fife Council service manager John Mitchell responded: “The Spaces for People programme is for temporary infrastructure to make it safer for people to walk, cycle or wheel for essential trips and exercise.

“Community and economic recovery is at the forefront of the Spaces for People programme.

“It will help the public adhere to the government’s ‘physical distancing’ requirements and support access to essential services, travel and exercise.

“Often, with limited shop space, queues are typically being seen outside premises, so some street environments may need to change whilst the Covid-19 restrictions are in place.

“The proposals which have been collected with contributions from local communities, are now being assessed further, as designs advance.

“Discussions with local members and stakeholders are planned to ensure that projects can be shaped to maximise the benefits to local communities.

“The temporary interventions are being programmed to happen during July and August.”