West Clyde Street, Helensburgh, where businesses were badly hit by the pandemic. Picture by Bill Heaney

By Julie Millar

Some local businesses may struggle to open when social distancing is still a requirement.

To help this situation, a number of public realm sites, across Argyll and Bute, including Colquhoun Square in Helensburgh, will be made available on a temporary basis to established businesses, free of charge, in a bid to help open up the area’s economy quickly and safely.

Short-term use of these spaces could include external seating areas for cafés, licensed premises, outdoor markets and other uses which would support economic activity.

Further sites may be identified in the future, but the council is offering an initial number of sites. Businesses are also encouraged to advise the council of any other proposals they may have to utilise pavement space or on-street parking spaces for example, so these can be considered through the application process.

This is part of the council’s economic recovery plan to ensure that our town centres and businesses recover as soon as possible, whilst ensuring that the necessary public health controls for coronavirus are fully in place.

A list of available spaces is published on the council’s website along with details on how to apply to use them. Applications can also be made for other sites in our town centres that are not included on the list.

Whilst recognising the urgency to support businesses and town centres at this critical time, it is important that the process is fair. This timescale was agreed with business groups as being reasonable and the scheme will be promoted by the various town centre groups across Argyll and Bute, as well as through established communication networks with business organisations.

This formally provides notice to businesses of the availability of the sites and requires applications to be received by 5pm on Tuesday 14 July 2020. This is a fast tracked, one-stop application process set up to the cover the next three month period.

Businesses using the spaces will still be required to meet all statutory requirements that the business must normally meet whether environmental health, food safety, licensing, road safety, and public order.

So, for that reason, some sites may be restricted for specific use or uses. The requirement for planning consent to expand into the public realm has also been relaxed subject to a successful application and the works being temporary.

Councillor Alistair Redman, Policy Lead for Economic Growth, said: “Kick-starting the economy, in a safe way, is of utmost importance to us. In recent weeks we have worked closely with town centre groups, businesses, Police Scotland and Transport Scotland to put measures in place that will make a practical difference at this crucial time.”

“Together, we developed guidance for businesses to support them to plan and manage real concerns around queuing in our town centres, while complying with physical distancing. As hospitality plays such a major role in our economy, we put in place a fast-track system for liquor licensing, through the use of Occasional Licences, that ensures standards are maintained.”

“Moving forward, as we ease out of lockdown, we will take every opportunity to draw on national recovery plans, as well as developing local initiatives, to look after the economic and community health of Argyll and Bute.”

To view the sites available for lease, criteria for use and to apply, please go to:  https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/coronavirus/easing-lockdown-town-centres#application  

Available sites

RothesayGuildford Square, Rothesay Montague Street (stalled area), Rothesay East Princes Street car park , Rothesay
HelensburghColquhoun Square, Helensburgh
ObanStation Square, Oban Upper area, Stafford Street, Oban Ganavan Sands
DunoonChained off area adjacent to Argyll Hotel – Argyll Gardens Escape Road – Argyll Gardens


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