Free parking to help breathe new life into our town centre

The High Street in Kirkcaldy in October 1967.
The High Street in Kirkcaldy in October 1967.

Free parking in Kirkcaldy town centre that is easily accessible and more independent retailers.

That is the message from traders on what has to be done to increase footfall and encourage more locals to shop in the High Street.

The move comes after councillors agreed to end a discount parking scheme at the end of next month.

It offered Fifers cheaper season tickets and two hours of parking for £1.

While it enjoyed positive support, the increase in numbers hadn’t been sustained.

While a future car parking strategy is being considered, local businesses have had their say.

Lorraine Gardiner from Love Restored. Pic: WALTER NEILSON

Lorraine Gardiner from Love Restored. Pic: WALTER NEILSON

Lorraine Gardiner from Love Restored said: “Although free car parking can be offered as part of a solution, our High Street is still suffering from increasing out of town centre development and online shopping – and lack of a long term strategy to combat both.

“To attract customers back, free car parking needs to be offered in conjunction with easily connected and open plan car parking areas that feel safe and secure for all.”

And she added: “Radically, I feel there is opportunity to further extend the pedestrianised area in the High Street. Street improvements should be designed for people to use actively without their car.”

Gail Cadogan, owner of My Cherry Pie, which recently opened in the east end, wants to see the town centre have a unique identity.

Gail Cadogan of My Cherry Pie. Pic:  WALTER NEILSON

Gail Cadogan of My Cherry Pie. Pic: WALTER NEILSON

She said: “There needs to be a more radical solution to get customers back.

“The three-hour free parking seems to be the best solution on offer – but I feel we need to have more events and collaborations between independent traders to create a different shopping experience.

“There is a lot of talent and home-grown businesses in kirkcaldy. We need to build on that to create a unique, individual shopping and social experience which you cannot get at a faceless retail park.”

Glen Christie, owner of Glen Christie Hairdressing, wanted parity across the towns.

Glen Christie owns Glen Christie Hairdressing.

Glen Christie owns Glen Christie Hairdressing.

He said: “My customers think parking should be free in Kirkcaldy as it is in Glenrothes and Cupar – even if it was just free for two hours.

“But there is no point in having free parking in the town centre if there is nothing for shoppers to come for.

“If they brought the rates down you could have more independent shops coming in which would make for a nice High Street.”

Mike Lowe from Cupcake Coffee Box said: “I don’t know why they don’t look at bringing in a reduced fee for parking in the town centre for the first three hours – £1 for the first three hours and then after that it goes back to the standard tariff.

“Coming to the town centre also has to be more of a leisurely visit with more entrepreneurial, independent shops in the High Street. The big brands are disappearing. Small local businesses are promoting a different experience.”

Dom Panetta, owner of Migele Experience in Whytescauseway – one of the town’s long-established businesses – believes the discount parking scheme was not as successful as it could have been because it wasn’t promoted well enough.

Dom Panetta owns Migele Experience in Whytescauseway, Kirkcaldy. Pic: WALTER NEILSON

Dom Panetta owns Migele Experience in Whytescauseway, Kirkcaldy. Pic: WALTER NEILSON

He said: “Clients say it is not a level playing field – they ask why you pay for parking here when it is free in Glenrothes. It is also free in St Clair Street. The current parking situation is not only a barrier for shoppers coming to the High Street but also to people opening businesses.”

Dom said parking for local residents in the town centre also needs to be considered, adding: “Offering free car parking alone is not enough but it would make a difference. It would be an advantage for new traders coming into Kirkcaldy as well.”

The retail park’s free spaces and easy access is another key issue acting against the High Street.

Robert Robb, sales associate at Remax First in Whytescauseway, said: “People are heading in their droves to the retail park not only because it is free but it is also very convenient – the shops are right next to the car park. There is less and less to attract people into the town centre, you don’t have the same range of shops and there is a lack of places to park.”

Ian McEwan from Speedy Snaps in the west end of the High Street, said: “There should be three-hour free parking, but any longer and the traders will use up all the spaces. The current problem with parking is where it is – who wants to park at the Prom half a mile away to take their kids along the High Street and then walk half a mile back? What would encourage people back to the town centre is niche businesses.”

Carol Paterson, staff member at Canterbury Bells, also in the west end, thinks people will come to the town if there were more independent shops.

While Louise Canny, owner of Eloise Jewellery, said if free parking is introduced it should be for a limited time only, otherwise employees from town centre businesses will take up spaces all day, preventing shoppers from parking.

Andy McMillan from new High Street business Stuffy Bears added: “What I get from my customers is that they struggle with parking already due to the lack of it; the current price (paying to much) and stay time (not long enough).

“Our personal experience is we have our own private parking to the rear of the building that keeps getting used by customers visiting other places as there is not enough free parking in the area.”