Reduced car parking charges from the end of next month is the latest initiative to try to boost the number of people using Kirkcaldy’s town centre.
A six-month pilot, where drivers will pay £1 for up to two hours parking in all of the town’s car parks which charge to park, is to be introduced.
In addition, the cost of discounted quarterly car parking season tickets, which are currently £120, are to be cut to £60 to encourage those working in the town centre to park in central long-stay car parks.
The new charging system, which will take around two months to implement, is the latest bid by Fife Council and Kirkcaldy4All to boost footfall to the ailing town centre.
Councillors heard the funding shortfall from parking charges would reduce income by £25,000-£30,000 but a strong uptake would mitigate the losses.
Councillor Kay Carrington welcomed the proposals, saying: “This will help people coming into town and not just doing a quick 15-minute shop so they can rush back to put more money in the machine. This will be good for the town centre.”
Councillor Kenny Selbie added: “I am really glad we are bringing this proposal forward and it will be good to get the results of the trial at the end of the six months to see what effect it has had.”
But councillors at the Kirkcaldy area committee, where the plans were approved on Wednesday, were warned the initiative would not solve all of the town centre’s problems.
Councillor Neil Crooks, committee chairman, said the biggest concern for traders was non-domestic rates, over which the Council had no control.
“There is an issue about town centres having higher rates than retail parks.
“Historically we have a disadvantage, and the non-domestic rating system needs to be updated to take account of the fact town centres have changed.”
Cllr Crooks said there had been meetings between Kirkcaldy4All, the BID company and government ministers to discuss the issue.
“If the rating system was changed, which could be done, then it would make it far more attractive for new businesses to come to any town centre,” he added.
On a more optimistic note, Bill Harvey, chairman of Kirkcaldy4All, told the committee that Kirkcaldy’s vacancy rates for unoccupied retail space, which had stood at just over 18 per cent, had fallen to under 14 per cent before Tesco left the town.
“If that was taken out of the equation, we were heading nicely in the right direction,” he said.
“It is worth noting that, no matter how bad we think it is here in Kirkcaldy, we still have the greatest amount of retail space being used in Fife.”