How would you change Leven High Street?

Leven High Street. (George Mcluskie)
Leven High Street. (George Mcluskie)

What do you picture when you think of an ordinary high street?

Small, independent shops; the butchers, bakers and candlestick makers?

Or is it the big chains such as WHSmiths, banks, poundstretchers, stores which are visible on every High Street?

Is it packed, full of people?

Are cars allowed there?

Do restaurants and shops have outside seating, with customers enjoying drinks during the warmer months?

Could this be Leven High Street?

We know the heart of our town is struggling.

Clydesdale Bank announced it was closing, Wetherspoon confirmed it would not be coming, and WHSmith is going – the latest in a dismaying line of departures.

So, what could be done to bring people back to the High Street?

We asked our readers on our Facebook page for their thoughts.

Almost 200 people responded to our post which reached some 21,000 people.

The problems and long-standing issues we all know about, but what really came across was how much people care.

Local pride is still strong.

The majority of the responses were positive about the High Street, with many praising the number of independent shops, selling a variety of goods.

Jules Herd said: “We have a cracking town centre. Absolutely, it could be better but we are extremely lucky in what we have. Many town centres don’t even have an independent butcher.”

Some said the street needed a couple of big chains to bring it to life, while many complained about the amount 0f traffic.

Duncan Hogg suggested bringing a bit of colour to the High Street.

He said: “A wee lick of colourful paint on the taller buildings, as opposed to 50 shades of beige, and maybe some graffiti murals.”

A lot of people identified the growth of online shopping and the retail park as having a negative impact.

Another common criticism was that there are too many empty shops – lower business rates could help attract more businesses to the area.

Our readers are not the only ones who think business rates are too high.

Mohammed Arshad owns of In Touch Home & Gifts, which has belonged to his family since 1991.

He said that business rates were too high.

He said: “If they could cut the rates, more people would open shops, and more people would come down.”

He was also not positive about the future of the High Street, saying: “We don’t have any big stores up here. The High Street is completely dead.”

Mr Ali, owner of Duncan’s Hardware, had a couple of ideas how the High Street could be improved.

He said: “The day for pedestrianisation is gone. I think they should think about one-way traffic. The other problem is access.”

He thinks there needs to be a direct route between the retail park and the High Street.

But speaking of positives, he said: “The lowering of the business rates helped a bit. I wouldn’t have survived if the rates were the same as they were previously.”

There was political feedback too:

Cllr Graham Ritchie said the High Street suffered from the same problem as many throughout Britain – the growth of online shopping.

“I would like more notices to direct people to the shopping precinct,” he said. “Any visitors driving round Leven will go right past it.

“Another problem is the lack of activity throughout Levenmouth. This is why we campaign for the rail link. I’m confident if we get the rail link then we’ll create commuter traffic.”

Cllr Alistair Suttie also identified online shopping as a major problem.

What can be done?
He said: “It’s about making the town unique to attract visitors in.”

Cllr Suttie suggested breaking up some of the larger stores which are empty into multiple units, making it easier for smaller traders to move in.

He added: “People would like some community focal point where they can meet folk – whether that’s more cafes or eating places.”

Cllr Colin Davidson thinks the High Street needs to be re-opened to traffic.

“If you look at successful High Streets, they are all thriving compared to Leven because traffic is allowed to use it.

‘‘ We need to be able to facilitate people’s lifestyles. They want to use local producers and shops, but they don’t have a lot of time.”

Cllr David Alexander, co-leader of Fife Council, said that the £1 million investment in the Shorehead area would help improve matters, as it will create stronger links with the retail park and allow for events to be held in the car park.