Nostalgia: The ever changing face of Kirkcaldy’s waterfront

Looking along Kirkcaldy's Esplanade after the sea wall was built back in 1923
Looking along Kirkcaldy's Esplanade after the sea wall was built back in 1923

A public consultation gets underway next week on the latest plan to transform Kirkcaldy’s waterfront.

It will see the dual carriageway cut from four to two lanes, and new viewing platforms added to enjoy the scenes across the Forth.

Locals taking a walk along the Promenade with the Esplanade in the background

Locals taking a walk along the Promenade with the Esplanade in the background

But it isn’t the first blueprint to be unveiled to the people of Kirkcaldy – in April 1990 traders were dismayed by plans to revamp the Esplanade.

Road-widening proposals and landscaping works unveiled by Fife Regional Council would swallow-up 245 car parking spaces close to the town centre, which business owners warned could lead to shopping disaster.

High Street retailers also feared that the new £1 million fast-link would encourage motorists simply to by-pass Kirkcaldy’s main shopping street.

At that time, the town centre was already facing two years of major disruption due to the pedestrianisation scheme, and local traders’ groups voiced fears it could become a no-go area for the spending public.

Fife Chamber of Commerce hit out, saying the Esplanade proposals could be the last straw for beleaguered Kirkcaldy shoppers. And a spokesman for the newly-formed Kirkcaldy Retail Consortium grimly predicted: “People will go elsewhere for their shopping.” Under the new scheme, the Esplanade would be re-built as a dual carriageway link along its existing line between Charlotte Street and Port Brae.

The Esplanade’s narrow section would be widened on both sides to accommodate the changes, and provide a dual carriageway along the entire seafront, between lnvertiel Road and Port Brae.

Engineers estimated that about 110 seafront parking spaces would be lost between High Street and Kirkcaldy swimming pool. A further 135 spaces would be swallowed-up by associated landscaping works.

Announcing the plans, the Region’s engineering director, Mr John Rowson, said that an urgent investigation had already started in a bid to locate alternative parking sites near Kirkcaldy centre.

He told the council’s basic services committee that up to £500,000 would be required for replacement car parking – in addition to the £1.15 million construction of the road scheme,

The committee gave the green light for the start of design work, saying construction would begin in 1992/1993, subject to Scottish Office funding, and be completed the following financial year.

Traders’ organisations responded quickly to the decision. Speaking to the Fife Free Press, Mr James Brodie, Fife Chamber’s chief executive said: “For two years there will be massive disruption in the High Street as the pedestrianisation scheme is fulfilled. Afterwards it will take some time to encourage shoppers back into the town, that is why there must be sufficient car parking facilities for them.”

The alternative was “totally unacceptable” explained Mr Brodie, and he said the Chamber would be pressing Fife Region for a second multi-storey car park in Kirkcaldy.

He believed there were derelict areas near the town centre which could be developed for car parking – a point disputed by Kirkcaldy Retail Consortium, a group representing several major retailers.

Mr George Stevenson, secretary, said: “We are concerned at the loss of these parking spaces it is a fairly large proportion of the town’s total to be swept away in a single blow.

“We are further concerned that the outcome of the whole project will be to funnel traffic straight through the town centre.

“The only attraction the dual carriageway will have for members of the public is they will then be able to pass through Kirkcaldy as quickly as possible,” he added.

The consortium said they would be voicing their fears to Fife Region as some members claimed they were not included in the planning process.