Parking charges: Councillors back new plan for Kirkcaldy town centre
Two Kirkcaldy councillors' seven-step action plan to overhaul parking in the town has been welcomed by all local councillors - except one.
Labour reps Neil Crooks and Alistair Cameron have proposed a blanket charge of £2 to park in any off-street car park in the Lang Toun to encourage people to make a day of their visit, and for on-street parking rates to be standardised.
They have also suggested that the underused and much derided Esplanade and Thistle Street multi-storey car parks are demolished to create a new development opportunity or public space.
Beyond parking, the duo want to see a permanent control facility - such as retractable bollards - installed at the Burton end of the pedestrianised High Street to manage traffic, and for all traffic using it to be rerouted via Tolbooth Street to create more civic space.
Cllr Crooks tabled the action plan in the form of a motion at today's Kirkcaldy area committee, in which he requested that council officers assess the viability of each idea and report back with their findings.
However, he acknowledged that progress in making Kirkcaldy's town centre a more vibrant place to visit, shop and live had been slower than desired, particularly as he has been convener of the local area committee for 10 years.
He said: "I appreciate that the Covid pandemic has probably dominated and delayed progress on so many things, nationally and globally, that we look at delays to this as almost a minor issue.
"But it's big for the people who over the years have given their time and effort to simplify and get universality across our town centre.
"The issues around town centre parking and the town centre in general have dominated the agenda both in the media and in discussion with councillors and the public.
"I think we need to move on to delivery rather than continued conversation and I think that's what this motion is about.
"We're trying to introduce positive physical changes that have cropped up in conversations over the last ten years.
"All seven points in the motion have at various times been discussed within our group of 12 [Kirkcaldy area] councillors and we have been pretty much unanimous in backing what's in this report.
"We're laying our cards on the table."
Cllr Cameron, seconding the motion, acknowledged that the public were keen to see real progress being made after years of talking.
"People are looking for us to do as opposed to talk," he said.
"The seven points here are not only positive but an exceptional way forward.
"Although this has maybe been a long time coming, because of Covid and how things have changed, these changes have come about at the right time as well.
"We'll be looking for reports to come back sooner rather than later and we want to put this in place before next year - not to be carried on to new councillors - so the public sees there is a way forward."
However, the pair have been accused of politicking ahead of next year's council elections by one councillor, who asked that her dissent be put on record.
Conservative Burntisland, Kinghorn & Western Kirkcaldy representative Kathleen Leslie said the motion was "rambling to the point of incoherence" with "vague commitments that should have been looked at years ago".
She added: “This motion was nothing more than an attempt by Labour to fire the starting gun on next year’s election campaign.
"Cllr Crooks reminded us he has been area convener for a decade now - he should hang his head in shame at what has happened to the town centre on his watch.”
While the motion requests that officers calculate the costs and feasibility of each proposal, Cllr Leslie said Crooks and Cameron's proposal should have been heavier on detail.
She added: "The town centre has undoubtedly changed a lot in the past decade and we need to be looking forward to a better mix between retail and residential.
"Instead we get a motion that talks about demolition of two of the multi-storey car parks but nothing on the logistics of this.
"It talks about a £2 per day flat charge but provides no evidence as to whether this will lead to longer dwell times. There needs to be a better offering than that on the table.
“This motion is a very poor attempt by Cllr Crooks and his Labour group to look as if they are doing something when the reality is they have been failing the town centre for decades now.”
Responding to Cllr Leslie's comments, Cllr Crooks added: "My approach to my convenorship has been to seek agreement from local councillors rather than isolate those who may disagree with the direction of travel.
"I don’t play at party politics and I welcome the fact Cllr Leslie attends most of our meetings.
"I wont get involved in personal attacks and I have nothing to be ashamed of as convener of the area committee.
"I have encouraged and promoted partnership working, and, collectively, we have tried our best with the resources we have had at our disposal. I will continue to apply myself in that way through to May next year."
The Kirkcaldy area's other councillors backed the motion with no amendments
SNP Kirkcaldy East representative Rod Cavanagh said: "The motion encapsulates all the principles we have discussed over the piece and sums up all the points we want to discuss and better still put into effect.
"We've spent enough time talking and we're very much into the delivery phase now.
"I'd very much like to see the reports responded to in good times so we're not sitting here in another five years discussing this. The time for discussion is done."