The chairman of the St
Andrews Partnership has called on Fife Council to rethink its car parking charges in the town, in a bid to boost the local economy.
In a letter to this newspaper, Jim McArthur said St Andrews could benefit from a pilot scheme currently being introduced in Kirkcaldy which will see cut-price car charges for the next six months.
From last Monday, charges have been reduced at all Council-owned car parks in Kirkcaldy in a bid to encourage shoppers back to the High Street. Two hours’ parking now costs £1 and 2-3 hours £2. However, in South Street, St Andrews, for example, one hour costs £1 and doubles for two hours.
Mr McArthur said: “In early 2014, St Andrews Partnership and St Andrews Merchants Association met local St Andrews councillors and Fife Council officials to discuss the possibility of offering free parking in St Andrews town centre between 9am and 10am and 4pm and 5pm each day.
“We were conscious at that time of growing feelings in the town that parking wardens were being very vigilant and shoppers who only wanted to pop in for a short time were being put off by both the charges and the vigilance.
“We also felt that, given the growth in shopping facilities around the periphery of St Andrews, free parking at the beginning and end of the business day could encourage greater footfall for the town centre.”
He went on: “After consideration, our proposal was turned down by Fife Council, on the basis it would lose too much income and that it needed to maintain a consistency of parking charging regimes across Fife.
“However, it seems parking charges have just been slashed in Kirkcaldy town centre to “attract High Street footfall”. This demonstrates to me that Fife Council does have the ability to vary things locally.”
Backing the call, North East Fife MP Stephen Gethins said: “We must always be looking for initiatives that make St Andrews an attractive place to shop and I would urge the council to meet with the St Andrews partnership so that they can discuss what works best for the town.”
Kirkcaldy area committee chairman Councillor Neil Crooks explained the scheme was approved by the Kirkcaldy area committee which decided to use funds from the Kirkcaldy Town Centre Regeneration Fund to offset any potential loss of revenue to the Council.
He said: “This is a pilot scheme to see if a reduction in parking charges will help promote economic regeneration in the town.
“Our vacancy rates have remained higher than we would like post-recession and, with the closure of Tesco, we felt it was important to try and support the town centre businesses.
“The decision was also based on the results of public consultation and the significant reduction in car park usage in the area.”
Councillor Lesley Laird said: “Parking presents different challenges across Fife. Each town in Fife is different but we would be happy to meet with St Andrews Partnership to discuss any proposals.”