High Street plea from traders

Leven High Street before pedestrianisation
Leven High Street before pedestrianisation

Traders on Leven’s High Street have urged Fife Council to consider reversing pedestrianisation.

At a meeting of local business owners, residents and council representatives held last week to discuss changes to the Shorehead, Bridge Street and High Street area, several traders made the argument to reverse the decision, which was made permanant in 1985, to once again allow cars and buses along the route.

The High Street today - pedestrianised, and many shops for rent

The High Street today - pedestrianised, and many shops for rent

At the meeting, which was attended by over 20 interested parties, several shop owners claimed they were missing out on passing trade, and felt tucked away as cars bypassed the High Street entirely.

One trader said: “We are a hidden high street - even on online maps, it isn’t flagged up as a shopping area.

“We need at least one way traffic back on the High Street, and there needs to be better access from the retail park. We have a problem where people visiting the retail park don’t know where the High Street is – they just drive to the park, shop, and drive off.”

Another trader added: “Some of us can remember when you could drive right up the High Street, up Bridge Street, and over the Bawbee Bridge. For us, as traders, the main concern is where (Fife Council) starts with its plan - not what’s coming in two, three or five years time, because by then, there will be nothing left. So if you start with a premise of opening it back up, and then work your way out, it might give us a little bit of a chance.”

One attendee added: “I think if you opened up the high street, you would probably see a difference in a six-12-month timeframe.”

However, not everyone was convinced, with one Commerical Road trader questioning whether opening up the street was the best option, given the congestion it already faces.

Another woman agreed, saying: “Right now, the High Street is meant to be pedestrianised, but it isn’t really, between deliveries and disabled drivers.”

Area services manager for Levenmouth, Dave Paterson, acknowledged was quick to take the comments on board, and explained that proposals for a rennovation at Bridge Street and the Shorehead might help to bring people back to the town centre.

“We want to use the assets that we already have. We will be investing in Bridge Street and the Shorehead, and we want to make the whole town centre a more pleasant place that people want to come to.”

Mr Paterson revealed Fife Council has already secured £500,000 of funding - some of which has already been used on the Shorehead design process and Stitch in Time works - and it is hoped that up to £750,000 will be set aside for improvement works in the February budget statement.

“There is a feeling now that Fife Council is making Leven a priority and we think this total can make a real difference in the town,” added Mr Paterson. “There’s a whole lot going on here – 1500 affordable homes planned, massive investment in Diageo, potential for the reinstated rail link and – I think personally – one of the best beaches in Fife. There are advantages in Leven – free parking, a bus station right in the centre of town – and we need to be exploiting these.”

Chris Wragg, economic adviser for Fife Council, is now working with the Leven traders to set up a business development group which will come up with ideas and advise the local authority on the way forward for the High Street.

Councillor Tom Adams, chairman of the Levenmouth area committee, attended the meeting and believed it to be very positive. “I think it went very well,” he said, “and it was really great to see so many of the traders there.

“Obviously one of the main suggestions was to open the High Street back up, and I do think this is something we can explore, and if it’s feasible, we could maybe trial it. Overall it was really positve and I’m glad that some of the traders are now looking at developing a business group too.”

Mr Paterson added: “If (reversing pedestrianisation) is the consensus from the traders, then we need to take note. We are happy to try and work with the traders on any issues they have.”