The 1972 bid to ban all cars from stopping on Kirkcaldy Esplanade

Kirkcaldy’s Esplanade has undergone many changes over the generations -and is about to witness the next phase of its transformation.

Friday, 8th July 2022, 1:09 pm

But, as work continues reconnecting the waterfront to the parallel High Street, it’s worth looking back 50 years to a very different plan which would have seen it become a clearway.

That would have meant no stopping at all for any vehicles - a move which proved hugely contentious for the councillors of the day.

In the end it was decided by one vote not to proceed, but only after confusion and a protracted debate.

How the Esplanade in Kirkcaldy used to look - a view familiar to many visitors and locals

The matter had been under consideration for some months, and came at a time when the town council was clearing land for a new shopping centre - the Mercat - and also looking at building multi-storey car parks on the Esplanade which still stand to this day, largely unloved.

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It was referred back to the full council following confusion over what decision had actually been taken by the Streets Committee in January.

On reconsideration, the committee reaffirmed by six votes to three, its decision that the Esplanade should be a clearway its entire length from Port Brae to Peebles Street.

A step back in time on the Esplanade

A proposal that special provision be made for vehicles dropping off and picking up passengers at the Hotel Ambassadeur was rejected by five votes to four.

And then it went to the full council where things got heated as Councillor, Roy McNab, who represented the Ratepayers Party, sparked what turned out to be another very lengthy debate

He proposed a traffic order declaring the Esplanade a clearway with the provision that vehicles could drop off or pick up at the hotel which the local authority had recently given planning permission to for a canopy to keep its customers dry while waiting on their lifts.

That didn’t go down well.

Artist impression of the £1.41 million Kirkcaldy Waterront regeneration plan

Reported the Fife Free Press: “Bailie William A. Coull (Lab) said if special provision was made, where would this sort of thing stop?”

In his view the proposed service road - which had still to be built - was sufficient for taxis and saw no hardship if passengers had to walk the short distance.

Bailie Roger Strugnell rejected the idea, pointing out: “This is the most exposed place in town and you have guests arriving, particularly the ladies who have spent money on hair-dos. Even walking five yards they would almost be blown away,”

Rankin Grimshaw, Hon Treasurer, dissented: “If the Esplanade is to be a clearway then it must be a clearway for all and no special consideration given to the hotel.”

Concern was also expressed for residents if coal and milk lorries couldn’t stop at doors, and that traffic may speed up on the Esplanade.

The final word went to Provost H.A. Nicholson who said: “We have approval for this hotel.

“ If we now take this extraordinary decision we will be the laughing stock of the whole countryside”

In the end councillors finally voted 15-14 not to proceed with plans for the clearway on the waterfront.