STOP & RE-THINK FOr Sake of TOWN CENTRE

3810059 SSFF carpark 'L - R: Alistair Cameron, Chic Stenhouse, Yosef Ewing - with a copy of their report at the Tolbooth Street Car Park, Kirkcaldy

3810059 SSFF carpark 'L - R: Alistair Cameron, Chic Stenhouse, Yosef Ewing - with a copy of their report at the Tolbooth Street Car Park, Kirkcaldy

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GREAT idea, wrong location.

It’s been a consistent theme of the Save The Car Park campaign since day one.

And now, with a contract about to be awarded, it has rolled the dice one last time and called on Fife Council to review the project before Tolbooth Street car park is finally closed and work starts on building the new £15m pool and leisure centre.

The campaigners, businessmen Chic Stenhouse, Yosof Ewing and Alistair Cameron, have consistently argued that the decision to close the open air car park will damage the town centre’s economy, and they say that to do so now, when trading is more fragile than ever, is simply wrong.

Retail survey

It hopes the range of signatures on the open letter - published in full in today’s Press - will put pressure on the Council to look again at its plans even although the project is already considerably behind schedule as a result of months of negotiations to resolve legal rights of access to Tolbooth Street.

It has the backing of major retailers, independent traders, sports groups and key people across the community as well as a number of politicians.

‘‘The breadth and diversity of those who have signed is incredible and cannot be disputed,’’ said Mr Cameron.

‘‘It’s no longer just about us, a small campaign team - this is what the town is saying.

‘‘We have spoken directly to businesses across the town centre, including all the major High Street retailers.

‘‘A significant number have put their name to our letter whilst those who could not for corporate or legal reasons still expressed their concern and they are right behind the campaign.’’

Political pressure

The campaign is also looking to add political pressure to its message.

It plans to ask Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance to set up a meeting with First Minister Alex Salmond when he brings the Scottish Cabinet to town in August.

Kirkcaldy MP, Gordon Brown, has also called for Council officers to meet with a delegation to hear their concerns at first hand.

Plans to replace the town’s existing 40-year old pool were first outlined two years ago, but the choice of location - the most popular town centre car park - has been a major source of debate ever since, and was the catalyst for the ‘Save The Car Park’ campaign.

Since then the project, which includes a new sports centre, has been mired in legal issues as it emerged several retailers held access rights to Tolbooth Street.

An audit strongly criticised officers for not giving the matter sufficient attention, and councillors had to agree to spending £1m to sort the matter out.

Now the campaign team believes the economic situation has changed so much there has to be a re-think.

Said Mr Stenhouse: ‘‘Fife Council is duty bound to review this project.

‘‘It needs to stop and re-assess - everyone in town says that.

‘‘The economy has changed so much since the project was first launched, and the issues we have unearthed - such as the legal access rights - have to be taken into account as well.’’

The campaign believes the local authority needs to review the case for the pool in Tolbooth Street, and publish its findings - and it says if it does not, then it will take its case to the Scottish Government.

Tough trading

Added Mr Cameron: ‘‘If Fife Council can refute our claims then great - let it do so.

‘‘This isn’t about stopping the building of a new pool.

‘‘We all agree Kirkcaldy needs more, and better, sports facilities, but this location is wrong, and if the car park does close in November, right before the Christmas rush, then I fear it will be another nail in the coffin of the High Street.

‘‘There are livelihoods and jobs at real risk here.

‘‘Ask anyone in business in the town centre and they will tell you the last six to ten weeks trading have been truly horrendous - we are all in the same boat.

‘‘The frustrating thing is we could have a fantastic message here come the end of the year.

‘‘M & S’ development will be superb for the town centre, the public realm works will be close to finishing and that means, after all the pain we’ve gone through, we have the opportunity of a positive festive campaign for everyone.

‘‘To close Tolbooth Street before Christmas is madness.

‘‘One business told us it was vindictive - a sick joke.’’