The figures are damning - and underline the strong case for Kirkcaldy town centre to undergo a complete overhaul of its car parking policies.
Over the past five years Lang Toun drivers have paid nearly HALF of all town centre revenue in the Kingdom yet parking conditions are so lousy local businesses are losing a staggering £9 million in sales each year.
That’s according to a new review, commissioned by Kirkcaldy4All, which is in no doubt where the blame lies - Fife Council.
Economic researchers from 4consulting dub the local authority’s transport strategy as “the invisible plan”, its decision to remove Tolbooth Street to build a leisure centre as a “painful misdiagnosis” and its use of new traffic wardens as “hamfisted”
“Kirkcaldy’s current parking regime is the result of a series of lurches and swings, a patchwork of policy and political pressure,” the report baldly states.
And while such comments will make uncomfortable reading for transportation officers, it will validate concerns of local business owners who cited car parking as the town’s major weakness.
Research confirmed some £9m is LOST in sales every year - that’s £45m in five years - and the cost of parking tickets issued was nearly £1400 for every town centre business, and that’s just in one year.
“It is difficult not to feel sympathy with the growing frustration among Kirkcaldy town centre businesses at the pace of progress and lack of urgency,“ said the report.
“Kirkcaldy town centre is crying out for the car parking plan first promised more than eight years ago focused on Kirkcaldy with clear objectives.
“That report must be written.”
Research revealed the Postings is the single most lucrative car park in Fife, generating a third more income (£1.4 million over five years) than its nearest competitor.
Drivers in Kirkcaldy pay an average of £600 per space per year for town centre parking - 50 per cent more than those in Cupar.
But, in an ironic twist, they are far more likely to be rushing back to their car to avoid being stung with a £60 parking fine.
“The more active traffic wardens in Kirkcaldy’s town centre may have dealt with longstanding abuses around the high street,” the report said.
“But the new approach from Fife Council is hamfisted.”
While the report pulls no punches, Harry Cormie, chairman of Kirkcaldy4All said he hoped it would spark a productive debate and finally bring about solutions which worked for the town.
“Kirkcaldy4All has built useful bridges with Fife Council but this is one issue where there’s been no accord,” he admitted.
“We will be awaiting a call from the council and will be open to meeting as soon as possible. We want it to be a constructive dialogue.”
Mr Cormie said the report had been commissioned in response to overwhelming miscontent among BID members surveyed six months ago.
“People have a perception that Kirkcaldy is ‘blockaded,” he commented. “It’s a serious, serious issue which is potentially costing millions of pounds a year.
“There’s a lot of car parking but it’s poorly managed, poorly presented and poorly maintained.”
The days of Kirkcaldy simply being a source of “easy money” for local authority budgets had to be revised.
“Kirkcaldy has always been seen to be a very strong town centre; a town that looks after itself,” he commented.
“I feel Fife Council consider changes can be introduced here without detrimental effect but this is not so; we’re struggling all the more.”
The decision to take away Tolbooth Street car park was a case in point, as was an idea two years ago to introduce charges for parking at Kirkcaldy railway station.
A strategy was called for which introduced fairer terms for drivers, supported local businesses and addressed current no-go parking zones, such as the Esplanade’s multi-storey car park.
“We can clearly make much more of what’s there if it’s better managed and better presented,” he commented.
The report recommends longer parking times in some car parks and a single ticket to cover all car parks.
It also backs the promotion of paying by text - a move suggested by Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions - and it wants extended residential parking to do away with restrictions outside people’s front doors.
It also wants to know what happens to the money generated by parking in Kirkcaldy ... where exactly does it go?
Kirkcaldy had essentially “treaded water” during the recession - its turnover last year was £563 million.
Mr Cormie said: “It’s a good town but we are restricting its performance by a bad attitude to parking. We need to sit down and discuss that but nobody seems to have wanted to do that since 2006.”
Where is the invisible plan?
It’s dubbed the invisible plan - the blueprint that should set the vision for car parking for our town and also across Fife.
You have to go back to 2006 when the Local Transport Strategy agreed to implement area parking plans for key towns such as Dunfermline, St Andrews and Kirkcaldy.
The Lang Toun plan was due in place in three to five years.
Transportation gave an update on the progress of a draft report and then came a commitment to review Fife’s parking strategy in 2010 but, according to the report by 4consulting, was “disappointingly brief on local town centre issues.”
Soma Raviraj, senior manager at Fife Council, said:”A parking plan was developed following extensive work by the Council through consultation with the public and businesses. Parking demand and capacity within the town was assessed and proposals were developed. As with many of these aspects, there are conflicting interests from residents, businesses and shoppers and the final plan was not approved by the local area committee, who opted to maintain the status quo .’’