THE Press is demanding Fife Council breathe new life into Dunfermline town centre by scrapping their controversial Sunday parking charges.

Hugely unpopular when they were introduced in January 2017, the fees have been condemned by angry traders, shoppers and politicians for “killing” business and threatening jobs while Dunfermline Delivers, which represents around 400 firms in the town centre, are also opposed to the charges.

Linn Williamson, who owns the Grill 48 restaurant in East Port, said: “We really should be doing everything we can to bring more people into town. 

“We have a lot to offer here in Dunfermline but if we aren’t making it easier and cheaper for people to get to, then they will go elsewhere – such as Livingston or Edinburgh – for a day out instead.”

Similar-sized towns and cities like Perth, Motherwell, Dumfries, Paisley, Falkirk, Livingston, Kilmarnock, Musselburgh and Stirling do not have charges in council car parks on a Sunday and even in the capital, a move to bring them in is at least 12-18 months away.

Out of the 20 local authorities we contacted, only seven currently charge for parking in their car parks on the seventh day. 

And six councils don’t have any parking charges at all, on any day of the week!

That’s why we’re calling on councillors to do what’s right for Dunfermline and get rid of these fees, encourage more people into the town centre on a Sunday, keep it alive and KEEP IT FREE!

On its own, reversing the decision won’t solve all of Dunfermline’s problems but many feel the Sunday charges are harming the town centre. 

Already struggling to compete with online shopping and out-of-town retail centres, traders blame the Sunday charges for once bustling streets becoming deserted, with a drop in footfall and income.

Nihat Oymak, who owns the Antioch restaurant in Bridge Street, previously told the Press the council’s decision to introduce Sunday charges was a “disaster” and said: “Edinburgh has free Sunday parking and yet we have to pay here in Dunfermline? It’s crazy.

“I don’t think that’s helping Fife Council. It’s hurting the business here very badly.”

He added: “If people aren’t coming to town, there are going to be more businesses closing. 

“That’s businesses who then won’t be paying rates, tax, VAT and everything else. Every business also needs employees.

“They’re thinking small and losing big.”

The decision to introduce Sunday parking charges between 1-6pm was taken by the Labour administration in September 2016 and implemented in January 2017. 

It was one of a raft of measures to try to plug a £40 million hole in the council’s budget.
Parking charges and fines across the Kingdom brought in more than £3m last year, although the costs to the council for operating, staffing and maintaining the service topped £2.6m. 

There are no figures to say what it has cost Dunfermline in terms of lost revenue in our shops, bars, cafes and restaurants, through shoppers and visitors either cutting short their visit or choosing another town or city to spend their money. 

The Press asked all 11 Dunfermline councillors, for the North, South and Central wards, for a response and by the time of going to print, three had replied. 

Gavin Ellis, Conservative councillor for Dunfermline North, said that, unlike other struggling high streets, Dunfermline had “embraced its night-time economy” and “thrives through the hard work of Dunfermline Delivers, business and residents”. 

He added: “However, we need to do more for the daytime economy. Yes, we have seen recent additions such as Bob & Bert’s, but what good are these new additions if we can’t ease access to them? 

“Dunfermline is encircled with areas of free parking from three hours at Tesco, to two hours at Carnegie and then there’s the Glen.

“I see no need to continue with the parking charges on Sundays and would like to see a few more free days added in across key shopping dates throughout the year.”

Lib Dem councillor for Dunfermline South, James Calder, said the Sunday parking charges were “a deterrent to shopping in the city centre” and “damaging” to businesses.

He added: “Removing the Sunday parking charges will help these businesses when they need it most.”

The SNP opposed the Sunday parking charges and their manifesto, ahead of the local government elections in May 2017, pledged to get rid of them. 

Forced to compromise as part of a power-sharing agreement with Labour, however, the subsequent draft programme for the new administration gave a vague commitment to “consider area reports strategically in relation to general car-parking charging, including Sunday parking”. 

There seems to be something more tangible now as the SNP councillor for Dunfermline South, Fay Sinclair, explained: “The SNP opposed the introduction of Sunday parking charges.

“When we formed a joint administration after the last election we initiated a review of parking charges across Fife. 

“This review has generated a pilot for decentralising responsibility of parking charges to area committees, which would give us the ability to scrap Sunday charges locally. 

“The pilot is commencing in Kirkcaldy soon and we will be looking closely at how any lessons learned can be used and benefit Dunfermline.”

We also asked the council administration co-leaders, councillors David Alexander and David Ross, for comment. 

Cllr Alexander confirmed they had “difficult decisions to make” but added that he was “in no position at this stage to publicly comment on what our budget decisions will ultimately be”.