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Fife Matters: Blue sky thinking needed to tackle town centre parking problems

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With town centres across Fife seemingly struggling like never before, I think it is fair to say that everyone is keen to see how Kirkcaldy’s place making and car parking options review pans out.

It was a bit of a long-winded way of saying that officials will look at, with the public’s input, ways of making the Lang Toun more attractive, vibrant and accessible, given the spate of High Street closures in recent years and the constant battle to lure people back into the town centre away from retail parks or from behind their laptops.

No-one ever suggested this is going to be an easy fix, and Kirkcaldy in particular is a prime example of somewhere where car parking has turned out to be a massive issue.

It’s not just town centres where it’s a bugbear. Find me someone who enjoys parking at the Fife Central Retail Park on a Saturday and I’ll give them a prize. It’s too busy and the space between vehicles can sometimes be non-existent.

And don’t get me started on parking at Victoria Hospital. If you’ve been to visit a relative or friend, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

However, if our town centres are to somehow battle back, the powers-that-be simply have to get the car parking issue right.

Out of town retailers already have an unfair advantage in that employees nor their customers are being driven away by parking charges or inaccessibility.

So when I saw a press release come in during the week titled ‘Park all day the Kirkcaldy way’, one can forgive me for getting my hopes up about whatever bold new move was coming forward.

Alas though, it appears to have been a false dawn.

Discounted all day parking season tickets are to be piloted at selected sites from October 10 until April 10, which will effectively cost those who take up the offer £20 a month – or less than £1 per day for all day parking.

That’s obviously news to be welcomed, and it will primarily benefit those who work in the town centre, students and regular visitors.

Genuinely though, while undoubtedly there is merit in trying it, I fear we will look back in April at this move as an essentially pointless endeavour.

People who work in the town centre or are there virtually every day invariably find ways to get around paying anything, from parking in side streets or the train station and walking into the centre, or using short-stay spaces which aren’t metered.

Don’t get me wrong, discounted tickets will benefit some people, but it’s not going to be any kind of meaningful catalyst in reversing a town centre’s fortunes.

There’s obviously no silver bullet to solving this particular conundrum, but hopefully those making the decisions have something better up their sleeves.

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