Jobs and investment on radar of new Kirkcaldy recovery plan

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Kirkcaldy Now – that’s the name of the new go-it-alone project being led by Kirkcaldy4All to tackle the alarming decline of our town centre.

The BID company wants to create a Kirkcaldy’s Citizens’ Lab – a new collaborative approach to showcase the town’s potential to investors, and create much needed jobs, which will then help to breathe new life into the town centre.

This week it also unveiled support from business and community groups.

The move comes after the Press revealed news of a “radical” campaign that puts Kirkcaldy first.

Kirkcaldy Now, and the Citizens’ Lab, is the culmination of months of work behind the scenes, carried out at a time when the town centre has been hit by a raft of major losses, prompting fears it may be reaching a critical point of no return.

The BID has already undertaken a complete review of the town centre’s businesses and sought out the expert advice of key players in the UK’s retail, property, architecture and design and land management to look at the town’s future.

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And its plan– which stands completely separate from the council’s Place Making Project for the town centre – is set to be revealed in more detail over the coming weeks.

Harry Cormie, who chairs Kirkcaldy4All’s board, said: “Last week’s Fife Free Press front page generated great levels of engagement.

“As a result, we have received fantastic levels of support – from businesses, community groups and members of the public.”

Among them is Tahir Ali, who recently bought The Postings after it was put up for auction with a nominal £1 pricetag.

The Wakefield businessman has changed its name to the Kirkcaldy Centre and set about giving it a fresh new look while working behind the scenes to fill the empty units and generate footfall lost since Tesco closed its doors in 2015.

He is one of a number of property owners in the town who have been in touch with Kirkcaldy4All to commit to the campaign.

Mr Ali said: “As the owner of one of Kirkcaldy’s largest commercial assets, I am supportive of Kirkcaldy4All’s plans to engage with multiple audiences across the town to build a vision for Kirkcaldy’s future.

“There is an urgency that the BID understands andit has my support in taking this exciting, innovative approach forward.”

KirkcaldyWest Community Council is also on board.It was recently briefed by Bill Harvey, BID manager, on its plans for the town centre.

Stewart Ness, council chairman, said: “It was heartening to discuss the ambitious plans that had been developed to halt the decline of the area and community councillors agreed to work with Kirkcaldy4All.”

He added: “It’s imperative that all stakeholders, the public and private sectors as well as the community, come together for the sake of our town.

“I look forward to working with all partners to see the positive changes that we all want.”

That support has been welcomed by the BID company as it puts more detail into the public domain – well aware there have been many plans and blueprints in the past which have delivered little of substance, and with the knowledge that the separate council-led placemaking project is also getting off the ground.

The closure announcement by Debenhams following hard on the heels of the loss of M&S and established traders such as the Pancake Place and ACA Sports, underlined the sense of urgency now facing the town centre.

Mr Harvey said: “Sometimes you have to go out on a limb, but it is clear we are far from alone in thinking the town needs and deserves a new approach.”

He added: “We have made it clear that this is all about putting Kirkcaldy first.

“Our next steps will be the launch of what we are calling Kirkcaldy’s Citizens’ Lab and more will be shared next week on this to engage with all across the town.”

Attracting inward investment – and creating much needed jobs – is at the heart of the new plan.

Mr Harvey said: “This is key. Fife Council undoubtedly invests in Kirkcaldy, but much of that – understandably – is within a Fife-wide framework. It is not about job creation for the town.

“We will soon announce a steering group that will help us to take this exciting initiative forward – and that will include some of the key stakeholders who are keen to keen to come to the table with ideas around inward investment and commercial opportunities.”