No cars on High Street and parking charges will stay, says council

Councillors will not look at reopening Kirkcaldy High Street to traffic or scrapping parking fees as a way of transforming the town centre’s fortunes.

Kirkcaldy High Street (stock image)

Fife Council’s Kirkcaldy area committee rejected the proposals, along with a bid to suspend the town’s £1.4 million waterfront improvement scheme, amid claims they were merely a knee-jerk reaction to the looming closure of Marks & Spencer.

Conservative councillors Richard Watt and Kathleen Leslie had also called for a report detailing whether cutting business rates would help the High Street.

Labour and SNP members said town centres were changing as shopping habits evolved.

Councillors Watt and Leslie insisted their proposed measures would make the High Street more attractive to shoppers who favoured the out-of-town retail park where car parking is free.

Mr Watt said: “The High Street currently operates with all of the downsides of an inside mall but none of the benefits. It lacks the advantage of Cupar or St Andrews where I can drop an elderly relative or injured friend exactly where they need to be, rather than half a mile away at the start of the pedestrian zone.

“There is no opportunity for passing trade.”

Labour leader and Fife Council co-leader David Ross said the future of the town centre was an important issue but added: “It’s unfortunate the discussion is being framed by this motion which is either naive or mischievous.”

He said the closure of Marks & Spencer was part of a wider trend and added: “We aren’t going to reverse that trend. Anyone who thinks it’s possible to recreate the traditional high street based on major retail stores is mistaken.

“There are positive developments – new cafes, new independent retailers, new housing projects and new cultural facilities.”

Mr Ross pointed out the cost of running car parking was already greater than the income generated from charges and said scrapping fees would leave the council with a financial headache.