FIFE Council has been forced to rethink a proposed rise in parking charges in Kirkcaldy town centre after a storm of protest from local traders.
Council leader Alex Rowley has ordered a review into car parking in the town after shelving the council’s policy of an annual parking charge increase of inflation plus one per cent.
The Environment, Finance and Corporate Services Scrutiny Committee recommended that the current system be scrapped as different options for changing the car park charges were considered.
But signs in car parks in Kirkcaldy town centre were changed anyway - showing that fines have doubled to £60 - leading to criticism from traders on the High Street and town centre improvement group Kirkcaldy 4 All, whose manager Bill Harvey called for more discussion.
He said: “No-one is disputing that there is a cost attached to the provision of car parks but why is it that the only avenue chosen to raise this revenue is via increased charges?
“Why not consider investing in the car parks by introducing better lighting, wider bays and either a reduction in price or extension of time. Why not consult with town centre businesses and look for mutually beneficial solutions?”
Traders in the town centre have reacted with dismay, saying an increase could deter shoppers from coming to the High Street. Tam Page of Kingdom Kilts said: “With ideas like this you can see why the High Street is dying.”
Alistair Cameron of ACA Sports also criticised the proposed hike, saying: “This is yet another crazy idea from Fife Council to do with parking in Kirkcaldy.
“If we do need to make changes it should be pay on exit. At the moment parking in Kirkcaldy is a nightmare.”
Mr Rowley said he has asked for a report to be delivered on car parking charges in the town. “We have been looking at options for changing the way we charge for parking that would provide support for more people using the centres,” he said.
“I have asked council officers not to proceed with the annual increase and to bring a report to the Executive Committee by September outlining the options for change to this policy.
“This will have a financial implication on this year’s budget that we will manage within existing resources”.
The proposed hike was also criticised by Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance as “a blatant money making exercise.”
He said: “I would urge Fife Council to rethink and to remember their pledge to encourage people to shop locally and work toward the much needed regeneration of Kirkcaldy town centre.”