Invertiel is the best and only site

KIRKCALDY;'Dan McDonald of McDonald Estates at the site of the proposed Morrisons store'photo; WALTER NEILSON
KIRKCALDY;'Dan McDonald of McDonald Estates at the site of the proposed Morrisons store'photo; WALTER NEILSON

THE picture has barely changed in 25 years.

Drive into town from Invertiel Road and the first thing you see are the boarded up bus depot offices and the big red shed. Side roads leading to car parks are blocked by giant boulders to deter the boy racers, and the weeds grow freely.

The Invertiel gateway to Kirkcaldy is shabby and derelict, but Dan McDonald can unwrap the tarpaulin of neglect and show you a glimpse of its potential.

His vision can be summed up in one word. Regeneration.

His debt-free company, McDonald Estates, is convinced they have the right site and the right client to act as the catalyst for further development of the area, and if it gets the go-ahead, it will flatten the boarded up B & Q and transform the site within the next 12 months.

The immediate benefits will be 350 jobs at Morrisons, and wages of £4m per annum going into the local economy. The longer term could be a revitalised waterfront bustling with people and business.

But no store, and Invertiel may remain unchanged for a further 25 years.

That’s the clear view of Dan who, as chairman of the Scottish Property Federation and one of the country’ leading property developers, is well placed to comment on the situation.

A Highlander by birth now resident in Fife, he is also familiar with Kirkcaldy, its shortcomings and its potential.

He’s also been looking for a site for a long time - a decade - and Invertiel is the only one that ticks all the boxes.

‘‘This has been a long project,’’ he said.

Regenerating town

‘‘I just know that Invertiel is the best site here. If the Council came back with another site I would look at it - but I would be very surprised if I didn’t already know about it in detail. I doubt it would find anything better than Invertiel.

‘‘As a company we look for opportunities to develop.

‘‘There are pieces of land we can regenerate - there is a lot more pleasure doing that than taking on a site and putting a big box on it.

‘‘Regeneration isn’t about that - it stimulates the local area, it creates jobs and it is good for community spirit.’’

But does regenerating Invertiel come at a price for the town centre?

Dan’s answer is emphatic.

‘‘I’m totally and absolutely convinced Morrisons will only help the town centre. I find it hard to believe anyone who says it will be detrimental to Kirkcaldy - I cannot see what we are proposing is anything but fully advantageous to the town. I have absolutely no worries about that.

‘‘We are not asking to build a monstrosity in a field that will bleed the life out of the town. What we are doing will consolidate what the town has - it will stop people going elsewhere.’’

Shop local

Stemming what is called ‘leakage’ - the money local people choose to spend elsewhere rather than Kirkcaldy - is one of the benefits Dan believes is key to the Invertiel proposal.

Every £ spent in Glenrothes, Dunfermline or Dundee is a £ lost to local retailers.

The addition of Morrisons, he believes, will help to keep people local, and also bring more to shop here.

‘‘Kirkcaldy has fallen behind other towns,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s probably because it has been overlooked.

‘‘The infrastructure is not as good here as it is in Glenrothes which is a new town, or Dunfermline which is close to the motorway network.

‘‘But I certainly think the town can generate development. It has good areas and poor areas, and those poor areas will not improve without investment - and for that to happen there has to be a positive attitude towards it.

Positive vision

‘‘When people see things are actually happening, they will come here and see for themselves, and when they do, they will start to see the positives rather than the negatives.

‘‘Look at Brian Souter. He believes, and is confident, a hovercraft service can work from Invertiel, so this town should be on the map - but maybe some things have to fall one step back to then come forward.

‘‘Things are tough just now, but I see in my own company that things are coming back.

‘‘ The vision we have is coming to fruition - over a longer period of time, certainly, and we are having to work a lot harder, but it is happening.

‘‘It’d be easy to sit down on a Monday morning and say ‘there’s no money and the banks are shut’ - and we might as well just go home.

‘‘It’s about having that vision and finding ways of making it work, of changing attitudes and I can relate that to Kirkcaldy.

‘‘The town centre has been considered with the same boundaries that existed decades ago. We have to look at the boundary as being bigger than that - it cannot offer what is needed to stimulate interest from, and investment in retail right now - and take in land that is possible to develop without being ‘out of town.’ ‘‘I see Invertiel in that context .