2020: The vision for Kirkcaldy

Two years have passed since the Fife Free Press declared 2018 as the Year of Delivery.

While some of those projects have delivered, it’s clear our timescale was perhaps a bit ambitious.

So, as a new year – and decade – dawn, this is our vision 2020.

1 Life after Kirkcaldy4All

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National Pride - new community interest companyNational Pride - new community interest company
National Pride - new community interest company

“You’ll miss it once it’s gone” – that’s been the mantra of many people across the town centre as Kirkcaldy4All prepares to shut its doors in March 2020.

Much of the town centre-centric company’s work was done quietly and off the radar – from advising and supporting new businesses in town to playing a key role in a wide range of events, but all of that will end when the BID closes.

A digital innovative district is proposed but it is still at the very early stages and comes with a 15-month consultation period before it even gets started … so who looks after, speaks up for, and defends the town centre in that interim period?

It cannot be left without that dedicated voice, but, as it stands, that is exactly what may happen.

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Artisan Fridays - new market in Kirkcaldy High StreetArtisan Fridays - new market in Kirkcaldy High Street
Artisan Fridays - new market in Kirkcaldy High Street

Kirkcaldy Area Committee and the Town House cannot replicate what the BID does – but both need to now find a resource which is given an ultra specific remit stamped “Kirkcaldy town centre” that becomes the go-to place until any proposed town-wide digital project gets up and running.

Or, it has come up with a Plan B – and it has had sufficient time to do just that considering the BID served notice of its plans back in October.

2 National Pride: What will it bring to table

A new face at the table and one with lots of ideas and energy – the challenge is to tap into that and deliver for Kirkcaldy.

National pride is an enabler – a middle man – which brings private investors to the table to work with the local authorities and make things happen.

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It has been talking to, and working with councillors and officers for some months, and has the potential to get some bring projects from the drawing board to reality.

It has promised public meetings in the first quarter of 2020 to let local groups and individuals have their say – after that, we need to see tangible benefits emerging for the good of our town. A new face in need of a quick win to demonstrate its credentials.

3 Housing in town centre

We have to accelerate plans to create more housing within the town centre.

Scottish Government policy is to open up all those empty units above shops in our towns, and, where possible, convert them to flats.

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At council level, there is now a much more structured approach to helping developers as they look at the empty buildings and see what they can do – several councillors and officers have got a real handle on the challenges, and made concerted moves to work with potential investors.

The former Fife Free Press building in Kirk Wynd, and Innes Johnston’s former premises on the High Street have both been bought with plans to turn them into accommodation.

There are many other buildings the length of the High Street which have to go down that same route.

Re-populate the town centre!

4 Jobs, jobs, jobs

The rollcall of industry and business which once employed thousands in Kirkcaldy is long gone.

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Factories with a payroll of hundreds were once the norm, underpinning the thousands employed at Seafield and Frances Collieries. They exist now only in the archives – outwith the local authority and NHS, there are few major employers to be found.

Without jobs, Kirkcaldy cannot reinvograte its economy. Without jobs, people won’t have the money to spend locally and support our town centre.

VeriCall demonstrated great commitment by locating its headquarters here last year – but we need more to follow.

The onus is on politicians, business leaders and government agencies to do much, much more for Kirkcaldy in 2020.

5 Town centre

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In 2018, the negativity of every major retail closure masked so many of the positives surrounding our High Street and town centre. The east end has become a vibrant sector of independent traders who all work together for their greater good, and businesses still want to come to Kirkcaldy’s High Street.

The composition of the town centre IS changing, and that process can be a challenge.

Mourning what we have lost roots us in the past.

Ushering in the new and making it welcome holds the key to the future.

The town centre will become more service-led – coffee shops, places to eat, nail bars and beauty therapists.

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We do need to add food outlets to that mix – the traditional greengrocer and butcher. Lousie Canny’s Artisan Friday markets have demonstrated a clear support for such outlets – and she has plans to develop the markets in scope and size in 2020. Kirkcaldy could learn much simply by looking along the coast to Burntisland where independent traders have come together to create a bustling, vibrant High Street.

6 Parking

The issue of town centre parking has been the subject of more consultations and discussions than almost any other, and we need a clear decision on the way ahead – sooner rather than later.

The chances of free parking to mirror that of the out-of-town retail park are probably nil, so councillors and officers must think big, think out of the box, and come up with an imaginative plan which works for our town centre. If that means breaking the Fife-wide mould then so be it.

7. Events

“Nothing ever happens in Kirkcaldy” is a myth that needs to be exploded in 2020.

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Kirkcaldy Parks Half-Marathon was a spectacular success in 2019 and looks set to expand this year.

Then we had a celebration of Jocky Wilson, the revival of a very busy and enjoyable fireworks display, a phenomenally successful food and drink fair, a packed Christmas programme ...the list goes on.

There is clear scope to develop the Adam Smith Festival, while the launch of the Kings Live Lounge gives the town a great new venue for gigs and events.

Community groups continue to underpin a host of galas and festivals. In 2020, they all deserve your support – and the more you do that, the more they can deliver.

8. We still want a cinema

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With the Odeon at Dunfermline getting away with murder at the box office in terms of ticket prices, the need to establish a cinema in Kirkcaldy remains strong.

We can forget the Mercat – any interest it had in turning the gap site of the demolished pool into a multi-screen faded some time ago.

But it isn’t the only location and there ARE plans to establish a cinema in the heart of the town.They’re still at an early stage, but could 2020 be the year they finally gain momentum?

9. On the waterfront

“Why aren’t we making more of the Esplanade?’ is a cry that’s been thrown from the back of the room many times.

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While it’s long been taken for granted as a drab grey thoroughfare next to the imposing brutalist walls at the seafront, there is undoubtedly potential to be unlocked, and this could be just the start.

With the reduction of the dual carriageway to a single road, there will now be greater provision of car parking, open spaces, and perhaps even a little greenery to liven up an area that has been under-utilised for decades.

We now have a couple of new businesses along that stretch of road who might see potential for outdoor seating, so more people can enjoy the sweeping views out to sea.

We need to see a clear vision for bringing our waterfront to life and making the absolute most of the location.

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