Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer public spaces - updated guidance

Guidance focused on design principles for safer urban centres and green spaces in Scotland during the coronavirus crisis. It contains information and examples of interventions that may be undertaken by owners and operators of public spaces to keep people safe.

63 page PDF

12.2 MB

63 page PDF

12.2 MB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer public spaces - updated guidance
7. Additional communication, technology and regulatory considerations

63 page PDF

12.2 MB

7. Additional communication, technology and regulatory considerations

7.1 Temporary signage and communication considerations

Owners/operators are advised to provide clear and concise information to the public on how to adhere to physical distancing. They are advised to emphasise the latest government advice on safety procedures and carefully consider physical distancing guidelines in public places. This could include:

  • Using simple, clear and accessible images and messaging to explain guidelines, with consideration for groups whose first language may not be English or where alternative formats may be required.
  • Showing the maximum number of people who can queue safely (accounting for physical distancing).
  • Signs and announcements about safe travel and maintaining physical distancing. Signs should be placed strategically to maximise impact.
  • Information on changes for disabled and older users and how they can continue to access public places in a safe way.
  • Providing Marshals in the busiest areas.
  • Marking appropriate spaces for queuing, accounting for queues and space required by neighbouring premises whilst taking security considerations into account.

7.2 Additional digital considerations

Owners/operators may want to consider the use of data and digital tools to make it easier for people to maintain physical distancing, and to aid decision making regarding the management and modification of spaces. This could include:

  • Making data available that shows the current footfall of spaces, especially those spaces that are prone to overcrowding; access to data and digital tools will allow people to more effectively plan their journeys and choose alternative spaces or use spaces at other times of day.
  • Owners/operators should consider using data and digital tools to monitor the usage of spaces, and to make modifications to the access and use of those spaces as required.
  • Consultation with disabled people, access panels and disability organisations will support measures to ensure that the needs of disabled people are considered. The communication of information relating to changes in transport and infrastructure needs to be in an inclusive and accessible format and widely circulated. Disability Equality Scotland hosts both the inclusive communication hub which shares information on accessible information, and the Accessible Travel Hub that has been liaising with providers to ensure the latest travel information is available for disabled travellers.
  • Data and digital tools may also be needed to anticipate and plan for the changing use of public places over time, to expect and mitigate the potential for overcrowding at certain sites during peak usage times, and to take any necessary corrective measures to make it easier for people to physically distance.
  • Consider how existing e-booking systems can be utilised to support the effective capacity management of public spaces, such as outdoor sports courts and provide key guidance for usage.
  • Digital tools can be effective to support decision-making, however, information should be provided in alternative formats to support those without access to digital platforms

While undertaking any of the actions advised, account should be taken of risk of transmission through touch. In addition, you must have regard for your regulatory and statutory duties such as those in relation to cyber security and data protection. Access to other systems should still be made available for those digitally excluded.

7.3 Additional security and enforcement considerations

A revised layout may present new security risks, particularly where multiple queues are created. Owners and operators of public places are advised to consider the security implications of temporary interventions to support physical distancing. To mitigate new security risks, we recommend that queuing is organised within areas that have existing protection such as vehicle security barriers. Where this is not possible you should consider: routing queues behind permanent physical structures (e.g. street furniture, bollards, trolley parks & bike racks) to provide a visual deterrent and delay; closing off vehicle access to shared spaces; adjusting servicing and delivery times; reducing the opportunities for vehicles (including potentially hostile vehicles) to interact with pedestrians; erecting robust barriers; adding new cycle parking; introducing a reduced speed limit mandated using traffic calming. Operators and authorities should not remove any security features / useful street furniture items without considering protective security in the round. Links to additional guidance can be found in the Appendix.

7.4 Regulatory considerations

As an owner and/or operator of urban and/or green spaces it is important to consider all relevant legal obligations before implementing interventions recommended by this guidance. We set out some examples which may be relevant below. As set out above, this guidance document does not impose any legal obligations and there may be processes required prior to you being able to implement the guidance. The need to secure consents for issues such as licensing, heritage or environmental should be considered where relevant,

Health Protection Regulations place responsibility on businesses to take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of two metres is maintained between any person waiting to enter its premises, whether a public space or not. Interventions such as marshals employed by business or temporary closure may have to be considered. Where retailers have queues which may become problematic at peak times, arrangements for such may need to be established through discussions with relevant parties.

Traffic Regulations

The Scottish Government has issued guidance to all local authorities on Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders and Notices during the period that public health measures are in place to reduce transmission of the coronavirus.

Links to further Scottish Government guidance from Transport Scotland can be found in the Appendix.

Planning Permission

The Scottish Government has published a series of open letters to all planning stakeholders recognising the vital role of the planning system and Scotland's planning authorities in supporting our future societal and economic recovery, and our future health and wellbeing. That role includes maintaining the operation of a well-functioning planning service, and also being prepared to take a pragmatic and flexible approach in recognition of the impacts of the crisis on businesses and communities and on how daily life will function for a while. Planning authorities are asked to support well-measured temporary solutions and not take enforcement action where reasonable temporary breaches of planning control can help businesses to re-start and return some normality to life within communities; for example to enable on-street seating for cafés and bars, beer gardens and similar to accommodate physical distancing. If applications for planning permission are required for temporary use and supported in principle, retrospective applications for temporary permission could be encouraged and handled efficiently.

Permitted Development Orders

Where interventions are needed such as temporary structures, planning permission may be permitted under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 (the GPDO). Part 12 of Schedule 1 to the GPDO permits local authorities, amongst other things, to erect, construct, maintain and improve: a range of small structures required in exercising any of their functions on land they own or maintain; and street furniture required in connection with the operation of any public service administered by them. New Part 25C of Schedule 1 to the GPDO enables emergency development by, or on behalf of, local authorities and health service bodies and can be used by local authorities in responding to the spread of coronavirus, including the erection of temporary buildings, this right is due to expire on the 31 December 2020.

Fire Safety Regulations

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order applies to all non-domestic premises- including any building, tent or moveable structure - and requires the person responsible for a premises to undertake a fire risk assessment, review it regularly and put in place and maintain fire protection measures to mitigate the risk to life from fire. Where coronavirus and physical distancing measures have impacted on the premises, it is recommended that the responsible person reviews their fire risk assessment to ensure it is suitable and sufficient.

Responsible persons who do not have the time or expertise can ask a competent person to undertake the fire risk assessment. The National Fire Chiefs Council has made available guidance on choosing a competent risk assessor.

Case study

The City of Edinburgh Council, with support from Sustrans Scotland, is introducing temporary measures to protect public health and support physical distancing. Funded by the Scottish Government's 'Spaces for People' programme, the council has been employing an online mapping tool by way of which it asks respondents for suggestions for locations in their neighbourhoods, where they consider that temporary measures are necessary. The council's call for suggestions ended on Monday 29 June.

All suggestions are being recorded and used to inform the selection of interventions around the city. The council will prioritise temporary interventions that will have the greatest benefit to public health and can be delivered in a short timeframe.