A year in charge of Kirkcaldy

Cllr Neil Crooks
Cllr Neil Crooks

The chairman of town’s area committee looks back

In the past year a total of over £1,449,000 has been spent on local community projects and initiatives in the Kirkcaldy area.

But according to the head of the town’s area committee, the biggest achievement over the last 12 months has been the shift of local government listening to the people in Kirkcaldy area and working with them rather than the Council just doing what it wants.

Neil Crooks, who is also a ward councillor for Kirkcaldy North, told The Press a lot has been achieved locally since he was appointed as chairman of Kirkcaldy Area Committee last June.

As well as looking back over the last year, he is also looking ahead to the future and the challenges he and his colleagues will face.

He said: “The biggest change that I have seen since becoming chairman is the move from local government telling local people what it is going to do for them and instead, working tirelessly to form partnerships and build concensus.

“Now there are far more consultations carried out to ask people in the area for their opinion. People are more likely to come on board with us and support what we are trying to do if their voices are heard and ideas implemented. It’s about gaining people’s trust.

“This change won’t happen overnight but we are certainly getting better at asking people for their views and will continue to do so.”

A number of projects and initiatives have been successfully supported by Kirkcaldy Area Committee in the past year and were reported to the latest meeting held in Dysart Community Centre last week.

These include: The Dad’s Project run by the Cottage Family Centre in Templehall which has seen local dads take part in SVQ training resulting in seven of them securing employment; backing the national Tour Series cycle race, helping local people run Gallatown and Templehall galas and related activities such as providing health awareness, financial and debt advice as well as supporting one of the biggest successes in Kirkcaldy this year - Fife’s first international carnival.

Neil said: “Frank Chinn of Fife Cultural Trust, Roger Spence of Assembly Direct and Bill Harvey of Kirkcaldy4All were the team that organised the Fife Carnival and it was one of the most successful events Kirkcaldy has had.

“It was a good opportunity to show what can be done in a different setting with an estimated 10,000 people coming out to see it.”

Kirkcaldy Area Committee supported the event by providing £3500 from the local area budget and agreeing for £7000 to be allocated from Kirkcaldy Common Good Fund.

Another success achieved was the committee’s approval of a one-way system for Cumbrae Terrace after a two-year campaign by residents.

He continued: “This was a big achievement and one recent example of the Council listening to what locals wanted when transportation was implementing the changes.”

A lack of parking spaces has also been an issue particularly in Kirkcaldy north and as a result money from community planning has been used to create bays in areas including Craigmount, Redcraigs and Cumbrae Court.

Another area where facilities will be developed in the coming years is the Gallatown.

Neil said: “Six years ago there was a consultation asking people in that area what they wanted and an action plan was put together but never carried out. We have revisited that consultation and had more community discussions over the summer.

“We will apply to the administration’s new Community Investment Fund agreed in our last budget, to bring resources to the Gallatown Community Facilities Network which has been approved as a top priority for funding.”

This will see a community cafe created, activities for children and young people, support for older people and family support work.

But while there have been some notable achievements there have also been some unpopular decisions that have to be made. Neil said the Adam Smith junction is an example of this.

He said: “People often ask why money can’t be spent on removing the traffic lights and making it a roundabout again. I have to say I don’t like the new junction a view probably shared with 90 percent of drivers in Kirkcaldy.

“It has improved since the debacle of its opening but it will never be a popular junction.

“One of my earliest meetings when I became committee chairman was with transportation officers to establish what could be done to make the junction better.

“Unfortunately there was no budget and I was advised changing the junction would cost around £200,000 and the net gain for drivers would be around 20 seconds.

“The priorities for the town centre identified at the summit were parking, signage, phase three of the High Street and fixing the Postings steps.”

He added: “Replacing an existing junction no matter how frustrating for drivers has not emerged as a Council spending priority yet.”

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

Neil said he would like to see a number of developments taking place in Kirkcaldy area over the next few years including improving the remaining car parking facilities in the town, redesigning the Esplanade to create on-street parking, encouraging more housing on the High Street, food and leisure facilities along the waterfront as well as ensuring the Beveridge Park Festival does not die.

He said: “As well as the seawall being raised I would like to see the waterfront developed.

There could be stalls undercover set up there in the summertime each representing different countries like Italy, Germany and Poland, they could be selling hot food and coffee which would attract people down there.

“Even a puffing billy from Morrisons to the Harbour has a good ring to it! The old swimming pool building and Esplanade multi-storey car park could be demolished and replaced with another facility facing the Forth.

“I know many would like to see a cinema or a bowling alley and that location could be ideal for something like that.”

He added: “There is something far wrong when it is announced that an event as popular as the Beveridge Park Festival is no longer being held.

“It is my intention to hold discussions with as many people as possible to see if we can make sure this was not the last one.

“In my opinion we need more galas not less and although the Council doesn’t have the resources to fully fund and support events like the festival, I believe there are people in the community who can organise and deliver the Beveridge Park Festival with the right support and encouragement.”