The challenge of making our town centre work for us all
Reshaping Kirkcaldy’s town centre to face the challenges ahead is a major undertaking, but it’s one that Fife Council must do with the help of the public.
That’s the message from Councillor Neil Crooks, chairman of the Kirkcaldy area committee, as the authority prepares to launch the Kirkcaldy Placemaking pilot scheme on April 3.
The town’s 12 area councillors will meet with council officers to discuss exactly how the pilot will run, who will be in charge of delivering it and how long they expect it to run.
Cllr Crooks said: “Next steps are crucial and buy-in from the public is paramount to making this project a success.
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“Over the past seven years, since I was elected as area convener, there have been many engagements over many town centre issues.
“This must be seen as the most important one yet.
“With our town centres facing some of their biggest challenges, we must ensure we get this right for future generations in Kirkcaldy.
“So what we are saying to the people is, here is your chance to join the party and help shape the future of our town or just shut the curtains and lock the doors because you feel the Grim Reaper will knock soon and there is nothing you can do about it.
“I would sincerely recommend they do the former and help us to create a town centre we can be proud of once again.”
How it will work
The pilot will be driven by four themes identified in the Plan 4 Fife.
The themes will lead the way forward and form the focus of the drive for investment to help deliver these plans.
They are: Thriving Places; Opportunities For All; Inclusive Growth and Jobs and Community-Led Services.
And an extensive list of issues and suggestions from local people under these themes has been drawn up for consideration in the pilot.
This is one of the main focuses with a wide range of charges to be considered from fixed price all day to the extension of free parking.
Season tickets, the demolition of multi-storey car parks and residents’ parking are also all on the agenda.
Also up for discussion is future charging plans for the car park at Kirkcaldy railway station.
Cllr Crooks said: “The expectation is that our area committee will have budget responsibility for parking.
“It’s critical that we are allocated the right budget for the right outcome, and all of these issues have been raised for consideration.”
Leisure and Recreation
Plans for a new cinema are still ongoing, alongside tenpin bowling, the reintroduction of the Kirkcaldy Half Marathon, public art and augmented reality at local attractions including Ravenscraig Castle, recently highlighted as a major tourism opportunity in the town.
And the area committee chairman said he had also included a suggestion for trampolines put forward by a pupil from Fair Isle Primary.
“The High Street will have more limited retail offering with more independent shops with unique selling points.
“Blaming rents, rates and car parking are all popular pastimes as we try to understand the significance of this change.
“The High Street won’t disappear but we want to know what would draw more people in.”
Residential Development Opportunities
Issues such as providing more affordable housing in the town centre and converting more retail space into residential use are on the table, alongside rates and planning concerns raised by traders and residents.
“Many of the floors above the High Street shops are empty or used for storage. If more people lived within walking distance it would seem logical that their footfall would help that economy,” said Cllr Crooks.
Movement of People and Traffic
Under this heading comes everything from the plans to reduce the dual carriageway to one lane each way to allow more leisure use of the Esplanade and allowing access to the High Street for public transport to how to deal with disabled access on the High Street.
Shoppers also raised the issue that there is no longer access through the Mercat to the High Street with the closure of Marks & Spencer.
Current Assets/Disposable Assets, Known Developments and Gaps
Many people have raised concerns over large empty shop units such as the former Tesco, M&S and BhS shops and given suggestions on how they could be used, from market halls to more leisure use.
How to attract new jobs, the development of the Postings, now The Kirkcaldy Centre, and getting rid of negative opinions are also on the agenda.
Cllr Crooks said: “Making more of what we have and finding developers for opportunities is a major factor. Without employment we won’t win our battle against the effects of poverty.
“When Tahir Ali, the new owner of the Kirkcaldy Centre, came to visit he knew nothing of our town or its people, yet his appraisal of where we live should inspire and encourage all of us.
“He could not believe the amazing views from the Waterfront to the Lothians, the Adam Smith Theatre and Galleries with the ‘stunning’ Memorial Gardens, the restaurants he sampled while in the town, the parks and the welcome he received.
“He sees his new asset as very positive, as a pedestrian thoroughfare from the bus and railway stations to the town centre, and I think we all need to start seeing our town in a more positive light too.”