Dundee could see more of the city centre pedestrianised to support businesses emerging from the coronavirus lockdown, the leader of the city council has said.
John Alexander also said areas such as the car park behind the Caird Hall could be used by outdoor businesses, while social distancing measures are in place and events at the hall remain on hold.
The pedestrianisation would be particularly beneficial to pubs, cafes and restaurants – with the council leader saying some of the plans could remain in place after lockdown has ended.
Mr Alexander, who represents the Strathmartine ward, said: “I think we should be open to all of those suggestions and look at them with a bit of renewed focus.
“I’ve personally had some conversations with council officers and with businesses. Some businesses have contacted me asking to utilise some of the spaces within the city centre; the car park at the back of the Caird Hall, for example.
“The reality is, we’re not going to have any concerts taking place at the Caird Hall, certainly in the next few months anyway, so if that car park isn’t going to be used to its full potential, could we offer that to businesses to have outdoor seating areas, for example – that kind of ‘café culture’?
“Again, I’ve suggested the same around Reform Street, not just as a reaction to Covid-19. I think there’s probably a legitimate conversation to say, ‘Is that something that could be here in the long term?’.
“We’ve got a slight advantage, I think, in comparison to other cities, in the sense that much of our city centre is pedestrianised to a large degree already. We’ve got a real concentrated city centre, where there is a lot going for it in terms of pedestrianisation.
“I think the key thing is the support for businesses. As we move through this lockdown, it’s going to be absolutely integral to their future survival that we are able to be flexible, we are able to be fleet of foot in terms of how we respond as a council.
“So if a business says, ‘I can’t survive, it would be so much easier if we had a couple of tables outside’, for example – whatever it may be – we should be absolutely receptive to that.
“We’re more than happy to look at that. We’re in active discussions with several businesses in the city centre who want to utilise different spaces, and we’re looking at them and not ruling anything out whatsoever.
“I think it’s a really positive thing, I think it’s probably something that we might want to continue, longer term, in some areas. Some of it might be a short-term response, some of it might be here permanently, but we’re more than open to the conversation.”
Mr Alexander added: “Some of this is going to be testing the waters, so there’s no point in pretending that we know whether it will be successful or not. Sadly some of those businesses may not survive.”