empty properties above shops in Kirkcaldy town centre are to be used to provide more affordable living accommodation for people struggling to find somewhere to live.
And the £2million pilot project, first suggested by Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance will also help to regenerate not just Kirkcaldy’s but other ailing town centres around Scotland.
The news was announced last week in the Scottish Government’s budget proposals for 2013-2014, when John Swinney, Finance Secretary promised to deliver more money for town centre regeneration, following on from suggestions put forward by Mr Torrance in a bid to help stem the decline.
The £2million is available to housing associations, landlords, property owners and developers to transform unused space above shops into flats and support living in the high street.
Mr Swinney said: “David Torrance came to me with an excellent idea to transform town centre properties into residential accommodation. I thought this had great potential to create new life in our town centres. I was pleased to be able to allocate £2m in the budget to launch a pilot initiative to take this forward and am grateful to David for an excellent idea.”
Welcoming the proposals, Mr Torrance said: “I am pleased that, following discussions and meetings over a period of time with John Swinney, my recommendations to allocate funding to support living on high streets in towns throughout Scotland and Kirkcaldy in particular, have been taken on board.
“It’s essential that everything possible is done to regenerate high streets in towns such as Kirkcaldy, especially in an age when the internet has impacted so significantly on people’s shopping habits.
“The allocation of funding to support living on a high street will give developers the chance to develop affordable housing where there are vacant town centre properties, thus meeting the Government’s commitment to deliver quality homes.This is particularly relevant in Kirkcaldy where there are currently a number of empty shops with properties above them which would be suitable for reconversion into affordable housing. There are many benefits to be gained from this. The people occupying such properties would be more inclined to use many of the local facilities, creating a greater footfall for local businesses.
“In the long run this would hopefully lead to rates reductions and make shop units more affordable and appealing for new business to start up. It is important that high streets are repopulated. This kind of regeneration and provision of affordable housing on Kirkcaldy High Street would make a significant impact and hopefully bring life back to the town centre.”
He said that action was particularly relevant with the number of major retailers leaving Kirkcaldy’s town centre, with the most recent, HMV announcing last week that it was closing its Kirkcaldy branch in the Mercat shopping centre.
“This money is available now to anyone wishing to develop living accommodation in the area. Hopefully it will be successful and help bring more people in.”