Discounted parking in Kirkcaldy has been brought to an end after Fife Council concluded it was not a “silver bullet” for the town’s long-term economic issues.
Over the last two years the local authority has trialled free parking days, the removal of Sunday charges, “free after three” evening discounts and cut-price season tickets in a bid to improve town centre footfall.
However, officers assessing the success of such schemes have concluded that they are not providing enough of a positive impact alone to justify the financial hit taken by the council to enable them.
Council transport chief Derek Crowe told a committee last week: “What really tested the pilot was Covid-19 – the collapse in demand and footfall made it really challenging at a time when there was already decline in Kirkcaldy.
“It’s very popular to talk about removing charges, giving free things, reducing charges, but they are not sustainable in this financial climate.
“The biggest lesson we learned is that car parking is secondary to the wider placemaking and town centre strategy approach. That’s the way for the future, as opposed to looking at car parking as some form of silver bullet, which it certainly isn’t.”
That “wider placemaking” approach relates to encouraging shoppers to make the best use of Kirkcaldy town centre, rather than just incentivising car use. However, cheaper parking has been strongly supported by both locals and the Kirkcaldy Area Committee.
The town has suffered a protracted departure of big brand names and department stores such as BHS from its high street, and schemes such as Love Oor Lang Toun are cropping up to promote and encourage footfall.
Thought is also being given to expanding how town centres are used beyond retail – looking towards leisure and even housing uses sitting alongside shops. These measures and others will form part of a long-term town centre strategy to be agreed by a locally-run leadership group.
These measures, officers have concluded, are more likely to stimulate the local economy than cheaper parking, which will only clash with the council’s environmental goals and cost more than it is worth.
Council business chief Gordon Mole added: “We have seen an increased level of small and independent retailers emerge in Kirkcaldy and that’s due to the fact we’re in a digital and online retail age.
“We’ve got to think about a mix of leisure and housing [in the high street] and that will be supported through the town centre strategy.
“We can’t return to the past we were in ten years ago. Those days are gone.”
By local democracy reporter Jon Brady
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