FURIOUS opposition has forced Fife’s Labour administration to backtrack on plans to charge for car parking at Kirkcaldy railway station.
Senior Labour councillor Pat Callaghan, executive spokesman for transport, last week voiced his support for the introduction of car park charges at Fife’s main railway stations and park and ride facilities.
But mounting public pressure forced Labour into an “embarrassing climbdown” by the time the proposals came before the Council’s executive committee on Tuesday.
It had been recommended that charges of up to £2.40 per day for should be introduced at railway stations in Kirkcaldy, Inverkeithing, Dunfermline, Dalgety Bay, Rosyth and Leuchars; and at the park and ride facilities at Ferrytoll and Halbeath (when completed).
But instead, Council leader Alex Rowley put forward a motion calling for “widespread consultation” on the issue.
The original proposals put forward in a report by the Council’s head of transportation, Dr Bob McLellan, also suggested charges were needed as demand exceeded capacity at the car parks.
But opposition councillors claimed that was just an excuse – and it was nothing more than a money-making venture.
Councillor Peter Grant, leader of the SNP group, described Labour’s handling of the issue as a “shambles”.
He said if the Council was serious about tackling car park congestion, it only needed to look outside Fife House and the full-to-capacity free car park there.
Cllr Grant added: “This is nothing to do with an urgent need to solve overcrowding in car parks.
‘‘The urgency is in raising money. Just be honest about it.
‘‘Don’t invent problems and try to con the public.
“I can only remember twice in the last five years when I’ve gone to the car park at Kirkcaldy railway station and not been able to get a space.
“The idea lots of commuters can’t find parking spaces and are missing their trains just isn’t happening.”
Councillor Tim Brett, Lib Dem group leader, added: “I’m pleased that Cllr Rowley has announced this rather embarrassing climb down on this policy that was heartily endorsed by his transport spokesperson.
“I completely share his view that this has been incredibly badly managed by his administration, but I am concerned by his claims that this paper was the doing of officers, and not supported by his administration.
“If that is true, this is not the member-led administration that we were promised.”
Cllr Rowley insisted officers were entitled – and expected – to bring forward suggestions and reports, and it was then up to councillors to review their proposals and make decisions about policy.
In this case, he said there had been a lot of correspondence from people who use the car parks who didn’t feel there was an issue with demand and who would be against charges being introduced.
He said it was agreed it would appropriate to take more time to look at the evidence and consider the way forward.
Dr Bob McLellan, head of transportation and environmental services, said: “This report was brought to committee for consideration as current parking policy demands it.
“As agreed at last November’s enterprise, environment and transportation committee, we recommended introducing charges where demand is greater than 85 per cent, which is the case in the car parks listed.
“This is not about revenue generation but we are following parking policy guidance.
“However, we will now be working with the policy advisory groups to develop proposals for the future of car park management.”