Visions for town plan within limits

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WITH uncertainty still surrounding the proposed new supermarket in the town centre and another major shop closing its doors this weekend, things appear to be looking worse, rather than better for the future of Glenrothes town centre.

Plans to tackle the decline have been under way for just under a year, and although progress isn’t evident just yet, the foreseeable future at least seems positive, but some are still angry at the state of the town’s heart.

(L-R): Kirstin Marsh from Fife Council, with Frank Chinn and Gillian Parsons from ON at Fife

(L-R): Kirstin Marsh from Fife Council, with Frank Chinn and Gillian Parsons from ON at Fife

The Glenrothes Town Centre Action Plan was approved in November 2010, following the Gazette’s campaign for the formation of a Glenrothes Town Centre Management Group since January 2009.

Recently, Kirstin Marsh from Enterprise and Protective Services at Fife Council, gave an update on the plan’s progress to expectant members of the North Glenrothes Community Council, a local group that have been calling for some sort of town centre focus in recent years.

Ms Marsh delivered positive news regarding subtle changes planned for the town centre, which will hopefully make a real difference.

Better sign posting, a festival at Riverside Park, an improved entrance to the Rothes Halls, an artists colony and a development framework to maximise potential are among the plans already in motion.

Speaking to the group about the proposed sign posting to direct visitors to town centre attractions including the Rothes Halls, Ms Marsh said: “It is easy to drive right past and not realise what is on offer in the town centre.

“Visit Scotland is happy that we meet all the requirements. We are now designing and deciding where to put the signs.

“We hope to have this done, certainly within this financial year. Our next step is to speak to Transport Scotland.

“Fife Council, Rothes Halls and the Kingdom Shopping Centre make a contribution. The Kingdom Centre are very keen on the idea.”

One of the more interesting ideas to come from the town centre action plan is to open an artists colony in the Kingdom Centre, aimed at bringing footfall, just as the Glenrothes Heritage Centre did during its month-long stay around a year ago.

Ms Marsh explained more: “We want to have a short-term artists colony in the centre to attract more visitors.

“We have had discussions with the Kingdom Shopping Centre and the small units have all been taken up. We are now looking at Unicorn Way.

“We hope to do something there, working with Adam Smith college. They have a specific course which gives people who have a degree, the chance to make moves into business with support from us.

“In speaking with the Kingdom Centre we now hope to move that forward soon.

“We will have a variety of artists. They are looking for the experience of running something like this.

“We hope this generates footfall at the centre, and they can then go out into the world having an idea what it is like to sell their art.

“Hopefully this provides another reason to visit the town centre.

“We are in discussions with Historic Scotland to tie in with the work they have done regarding the town art, to bring people in too.

“Businesses will not come if there is no footfall. Things like the artists colony and the heritage centre are all part of that process.”

Ms Marsh also spoke of the progress made in improving the Rothes Halls side entrance, with a design team hoping to finalise their plans by the end of October and work starting in the financial year 2012/13.

This latest update from the Glenrothes Town Centre Action Plan comes as the proposed new store continues to drag on. Kingdom Centre owners CIS/AXA chose Tesco as the preferred bidder back in April, but no progress has been made since, with a planning application still to be made.

This continued delay to a story that has ran for 10 years continues to frustrate locals.

And the closure of the Co-op in the Kingdom Centre this Saturday, with the loss of 42 jobs, only adds salt to the wounds.

So, while the town centre action plan is rightly applauded for its progress in such a short period of time with a small budget, the issue of a new supermarket which is hoped would breath new life into Glenrothes town centre continues to anger locals.

Local MP Lindsay Roy believes a deadline needs to be set to stop the issue dragging on.

He said: “I would applaud the council for the limited steps they have been able to take with the action plan, to create a heart in the town centre.

“What Fife Council have been trying to do would be the icing on the cake if we had a vibrant shopping centre.

“However we desperately need a supermarket in the town centre to revitalise the area and attract higher quality shops.

“The apparent lack of urgency by CIS and AXA must be a serious cause for concern.

“The proposed development of a supermarket has been on the cards for years, yet we still hear from Fife Council that delays are due to parking and transport.

“Not for the first time they are showing a distinct lack of leadership to ensure that this application progresses quickly.

“Therefore I would urge Fife Council and CIS-AXA to set a deadline date. Otherwise it will drag on and on.

“We are aware that there is another bidder in the background, who apparently have detailed plans prepared.

“If Tesco are not serious about their application, then Sainsburys should be given the application.”

Mr Roy would like to see more done to encourage people into the town centre in the evening.

He said: “If we had a greater range of shops that stayed open later it would attract more people and there would be an opportunity for restaurants to fit in with the Rothes Halls programme and provide facilities for other social events in the community.

“The manager of the Kingdom Centre has done an effective job and the steps taken by Fife Council are to be welcomed.

“There is a limited amount of money and therefore a limited amount the council can do with stringent financial constraints.

“Anything we can do to encourage more people to the town centre can only be a good thing.”

Glenrothes MSP Tricia Marwick backed the action plan and believes that the Kingdom Centre owners CIS-AXA play a key role in improving the town centre.

She said: “As the constituency MSP for Glenrothes, I support any proposals to improve our Town Centre.

“The Town Centre Action Plan aims to encourage more people into our town centre and has been shaped through the ‘Picture Glenrothes’ survey that was held last year and which I contributed to.

“I understand that the report is already implementing some of its findings, including introducing better sign posting for the Town Centre along the A92 and giving the side entrance of the Rothes Halls a facelift to improve its appearance. I am sure these measures will provide benefits to Glenrothes Town Centre.

“However, I remain mindful the whole of the town centre is privately owned and it will be important to convince these companies that they need to work with the local authority and the community if we are to get a town centre which meets the aspirations of those who live there.”

Ron Page is chair of the North Glenrothes Community Council- who received the recent action plan update, and a member of the Glenrothes Area Futures Group (GAFG)- who have been campaigning for action regarding the town centre for some time.

He said: “Members of the GAFG have been regularly consulted in connection with Fife Council’s Glenrothes Town Centre Action Plan, and have no complaints about that.

“Some of us would wish it to progress faster and further, but let’s be patient. It’s not so long ago there was no action plan.

“We at the GAFG like to consider we played a substantial part in bringing this about.

“We do claim to represent local peoples’ thoughts and ideas, and there was never any doubt that people want a central part of Glenrothes to meet and socialise in the evenings and at weekends.

“This developing plan does seem to go in that direction, with developments at the Rothes Halls, linkage to the town parks, more activities and events in this area of the town.

“The Kingdom Centre is still a shopping mall, but there are new developments both in it and in that area.

“I do hope it becomes a real focal point for people locally. We need something like this in this area, especially in this financial and economic downturn.”

Mr Page added that while a new supermarket is important, it is not necessarily the be all and end all. He also called on people to back the town centre action plan.

He said: “We at the Futures Group, are fully aware of the need for a supermarket here as well - to say the least.

“This should be a huge impetus, but we also note that a shopping centre is not the same as a social and civic centre.

“We at the GAFG would hope the supermarket would bring in some community bits and pieces, but in this climate I don’t hold my breath. A supermarket has one aim, and that is to make money.

“In the meantime, let’s continue to progress with and support this town centre action plan.”

So, the general consensus seems to be that- while the town centre action plan is making progress, a lot more still needs to be done to make Glenrothes town centre more attractive to locals and visitors.