Two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon and the ‘Tesco effect’ is clear for all to see - a car park lies almost empty and abandoned.
Three months after the store closed its Hunter Street base and quit town, usage of the Postings car park above it has collapsed by almost half.
On Tuesday the Press counted just 13 cars directly on top of the closed store - a place that once buzzed with constant traffic.
And that will have a significant impact on Council budgets because The Postings was its single biggest earner in Fife, generating revenue of £239,000 per annum - £1.5m in five years, and one third more than any other car park.
The Council has already lost its third biggest - and most popular - car park as a result of its decision to close Tolbooth Street and build the town’s leisure centre on it, and now it faces a major headache in what to do with The Postings.
The Council confirmed revenue had fallen ‘‘approximately 45 per cent’’ at the 300-space car park since Tesco quit town, but there were no plans other than to continue monitoring the situation.
I don’t think colleagues outwith Kirkcaldy would find sympathy with further cuts to vital services to fund free parkingCllr Neil Crooks
The car park was heavily used by Tesco shoppers and visitors to the town centre - and the fact all but a handful of bays are now unoccupied underlines the massive impact the supermarket’s closure has had on the town. Now councillors face the challenge of how to make use of the car park before it turns into a giant, loss making, white elephant.
Neil Crooks, chairman of the area committee, had pushed for local control over parking charges, but there appears little Fife-wide political enthusiasm for devolving power, but he is looking for solutions.
Along with Bill Harvey from Kirkcaldy4All, he has met with transport officers, and a report on reducing parking charges is now going before Labour’s budget sub group for consideration.
He is also aware that parking is one of the major barriers to regenerating the town centre.
Cllr Crooks, Labour, said: ‘‘Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions Partnership group’s ‘Time for Action’ report supports local initiatives to increase footfall and dwell time in the town centre and we all view the current car parking arrangements as having a negative impact on those ambitions.
“Most people suggest free parking as the solution but there is a £1million bill for non domestic rates for car parking spaces to be met so ‘free’ is not what it may appear - and given the pressures on care for the elderly and vulnerable I don’t think colleagues outwith Kirkcaldy would find sympathy with further cuts to vital services to fund free parking.’’
That said, he believes staying longer and paying less IS feasible - and that would boost the ultimate goal of bringing more folk into the town centre.
The theme of paying less or ‘free for three hours’ are ideas which have the support of other councillors.
Marie Penman, SNP, who was involved in the campaign to save the store, said: “The loss of Tesco has had a big impact on the town centre.
“I can understand why the car park revenue has gone down - I’m in favour of free parking in the town centre, for three hours at least, as a way of stimulating trade.”
How do we make this work for town centre?
Kirkcaldy4All wants more talks with Fife Council to look at the future of the Postings car park.
It also wants more feedback from businesses to assess the medium and longer term impact of life after Tesco - and where the town centre goes from here.
Harry Cormie, chairman of the BID company, said: ‘‘Not surprisingly, the use of the rooftop car park has dropped considerably in recent times and, with the excellent town centre position that this car park enjoys, we are seeking to discuss this more fully with Fife Council to see what measures may be possible in order to promote bigger and better use of it to the greater good of town centre business and the public.
“The sad demise of Tesco has obviously impacted on the town centre. It is to be hoped that some effective plan of action can be waged to revive or deal with the Postings’ difficult overall position and it is known that Fife Council is thinking and working hard in such direction, aided by the input of Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions.”