Ambitions for the future of Kirkcaldy town centre

Cllrs Stuart MacPhail and Neil Crooks
Cllrs Stuart MacPhail and Neil Crooks

THE pledge was quite simple. In front of over 120 invited guests at the town centre summit councillors promised: This is not a talking shop.

That was June 28, 2012. Ten months on it has publicly launched Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions.

It’s an informal partnership between the Council, Kirkcaldy4All, Adam Smith College and Adam Smith Global Foundation - four key players at the heart of our town.

It has a vision and it has a wishlist of projects for the short, medium and long-term - from the simple to the challenging.

In effect, the summit has now completed stage one of its journey through the corridors of power to find a place on the launch pad.

Now it’s time to go to work.

But what can Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions deliver - and where does it fit in?

Councillor Neil Crooks, chairman of Kirkcaldy Area Committee, is in no doubt it holds the key to the town centre’s future and he wants local people on board playing their part.

‘‘Anyone who has a passion for improving our town centre has a seat at the table - the door is open to all.

‘‘This isn’t political, it isn’t about the Council - it is about town’s future,’’ he said.

Those issues sat at the very heart of the 2012 summit which saw the chamber of the Town House turned into a vast workshop on sharing ideas.

The Post-It notes handed out to every attendee sparked a plethora of ideas and comments which were then analysed and summarised into a more conventional report format.

Out of that came Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions - an umbrella group designed to work with the other organisations AND, crucially, bring on board the very people whose desire to improve our town made the summit such a
vibrant event.

Cllr Crooks’ role now is to balance managing those expectations while also delivering evidence of progress,

He said. ‘‘I am passionate about this - but, from day one, I was determined we wouldn’t over-egg any issues or initiatives in case they then didn’t happen. That’s happened before.

‘‘We cannot raise expectations and then not deliver.

‘‘If someone said that 12 months on from the summit there wasn‘t much new to see on the street then, frustratingly, I’d have to agree.

“I accept the public wants to see physical evidence of progress, but behind the scenes a lot of work has been done.’’

That work has been central to the creation of Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions, formally rubber-stamped by the area committee in April.

Its paper, ‘‘Time For Action’’ set out its remit and, more importantly, its vision for what can be achieved in the short, medium and long-term, but without handcuffing itself to specific timescales - ‘‘hostage to fortune if you don’t deliver’’ admitted the chairman.

Cllr Crooks is convinced the work over the past 10 months will stand Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions in good stead - and the prospect of a recall summit in June 2013 will give it the impetus to move ahead.

‘‘People came to the summit last year with a fairly clear idea of what it was, and how their input was needed to make the town centre work more effectively,’’
he said.

‘‘ In order to take the information from the summit and make sense of the aspirations and ideas, we needed
a body.

‘‘Kirkcaldy4All has a job to do, so does the Council, the college and Adam Smith Global Foundation - they are parts of the picture but not the whole picture.

“For example we as a Council wouldn’t qualify for grants open to organisations with charitable trust status so we needed a body to take this forward.

‘‘Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions can look at the ideas and turn them into an action plan.

‘‘The public may think some of this slow, but if you are looking to stage big projects then you need funding.

‘‘Rather than shout about the project and moan when the money wasn’t there to get it off the ground, let’s look at how we fund it and make it happen, and securing funding does take time.

‘‘The idea behind a second summit is for people to come back and hear what we have done and what we are planning.

‘‘We want them all back in the chamber - they should be there to hold us accountable.

“If they feel the pace is too slow then they should tell us.

‘‘How do we keep people’s interest and enthusasim without over-egging the project? it isn’t easy - I never expected it to be - but there is a lot of momentum behind Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions, and there is a lot of enthusiasm for it to do really, really well.

‘‘There’s also a whole bunch of people in Kirkcaldy beginning to come together on this, to make their town better.’’

Cllr Crooks believes there is a desire to make things happen - a willingness to commit time, ideas and effort to raising Kirkcaldy’s profile.

It’s his job to tap into the potential.

‘‘This isn’t about Fife Council and it isn’t about Labour.

“Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions is for the good of the town and I believe there are a lot of people with a passionate belief to make it better.

‘‘My job is to realise the potential within people who want to make that difference.

“I am happy to be enthusiastic and to encourage, and also to be the one who is a bit pushy when it comes to getting things done.

‘‘If someone has an idea and the skill set to to do it then let’s get them on board. Let‘s get it on the table and see how we can help.

‘‘Let’s do it.’’