£10m Kirkcaldy Homebase retail plan blocked to save High Street

Artist impression of the proposed shopping units at the former Homebase site at Fife Central Retail Park, Kirkcaldy. The plans have been rejected.
Artist impression of the proposed shopping units at the former Homebase site at Fife Central Retail Park, Kirkcaldy. The plans have been rejected.

A controversial plan to redevelop the former Homebase store at a popular retail park has been thrown out for fear it would have a negative impact on town centre trade.

A £10m proposal to demolish the former DIY store at Kirkcaldy retail park, which closed its doors in August 2015, and replace it with five new retail units, creating up to 200 new jobs, was rejected by central area planning committee by seven votes to five yesterday (Wednesday).

The units, had they been approved, would have provided a combined floor space of over 8000sqm and housed ‘bulk goods’ retailers selling household furnishings and electrical appliances.

But fears that the development, put forward by Hammerson (Kirkcaldy) Ltd, would draw more shoppers away from an ailing High Street and town centre, which is set to see the closure of BHS in the coming weeks, was enough to see the proposal rejected.

Councillor Ross Vettraino said to approve the plans would have meant “yet another nail in the coffin” for our High Streets, adding that the negative impact of such a development on neighbouring towns such as Glenrothes and Leven could deliver a knock out blow for some retailers.

However Cllr Bill Brown welcomed the proposal. He said: “We need this sort of retail opportunity, it will attract shoppers and stop those living in the area from travelling out to Dundee, Livingston and Edinburgh to purchase items they cannot get locally.”

Kirkcaldy councillor George Kay, also in favour of the proposal, added: “It’s time our High Streets found their niche in the market, the challenge is to give people what they want from our High Streets and town centres.”

Officers had recommended conditional approval concluding that the proposal was unlikely to have a significant impact on the vitality and viability of the town centre.

However, LaSalle Investment Management Ltd, who manage both the Mercat Centre in Kirkcaldy and Kingdom Shopping Centre in Glenrothes countered that suggestion claiming from their own assessment that sales for Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes town centres could fall by up to 10 per cent if the re-development had been approved.

The refusal was welcomed by Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance and business development group Kirkcaldy 4 All.

“This decision is good news for Kirkcaldy High Street,” said Mr Torrance.

“Town centres are a key element of the economic, social and environmental fabric and the health of them should be put at the heart of all decision-making processes.

“It would have had a detrimental effect towards a further reduction in footfall and thereby putting jobs on the High Street in jeopardy.”