Local politicians have been giving their reactions to the news that Marks & spencer’s High Street store in Kirkcaldy is to close next year.
Town MSP David Torrance said: “I have contacted M&S bosses to express my great disappointment and asking them to reconsider.
“Retail parks are having an ever increasing detrimental effect on our town. We must begin to put our High Streets first and at the very centre of future decisions if we are to start redressing this decline.
“There is no easy fix, but I am positive that by working together Kirkcaldy’s elected members can come up with new and innovative ideas to revive our town centre.”
Cllr Zoe Hisbent said: “Whilst it is welcome news that staff will be relocated to another store, it is a situation that is highly regrettable; particularly in view of the commitment made by M&S in 2015 to continue trading from both locations
“However, I think it is far too easy and lazy to simply lay the ‘blame’ of M&S closing on decisions made in respect of parking and rates.
“The way we are shopping has changed rapidly over recent years – we have to recognise this.
“By embracing this change, rather than trying to fight against the tide, we can begin to look at new ways of thinking about the High Street and unlock its potential as a leisure destination that will not only benefit local residents but also attract visitors to the town.
“If our High Street is to survive we need to adjust our thinking; now is the time to put political differences aside and to work together for the good of our town and communities.”
Cllr Richard Watt said the closure sounds a death knell to Kirkcaldy High Street.
He said: “The expensive Esplanade works should be cancelled, and the money used to remove parking tolls from the town centre and reduce rates on remaining businesses.
“In addition to free parking, Kirkcaldy needs the High Street depedestrianised.
Cllr Lesley Backhouse said: “I have written to M&S chairman and chief executive, Archie Norman and Steve Rowe asking them to reconsider the closure.”
“Having met a few weeks ago with Bill Harvey at Kirkcaldy4All and had very positive feedback regarding new business on the High Street, I am sure if we can’t change M&S’s mind we can make overtures to other quality stores. The High St is changing but it is in good heart.”
Fife MSP Claire Baker described the news as yet another devastating blow to Kirkcaldy High Street.
She said: “For decades Marks and Spencer have been the heartbeat of the town centre and its closure will leave a huge hole that will struggle to be filled. At a time when we should be encouraging more and more people to our high streets, the closures of one of our flagship stores risks driving down footfall.
“Marks and Spencer must now confirm to staff what their futures hold and ensure that there are little or no job losses as a result.
“There must be proactive efforts to ensure the site is not allowed to lie empty and that either one large business or a number of small businesses are able to move in.
Cllr Kathleen Leslie said there will be a knock-on effect from this particularly for smaller shops and restaurants who rely on shoppers coming to some of the bigger department stores in the first place.”
Cllr Leslie continued: “When a number of M&S stores were earmarked for closure earlier this year Kirkcaldy was not one of them therefore, this is extremely disappointing of them to now do this. Many of their staff in the store have worked there for decades and appear to have had no forewarning of this impending closure.”
“Possibly the focus should have been on the more immediate concerns of regenerating the High Street and town centre rather than long-term and perhaps over-ambitious plans for the future of the waterfront.”
“Parking charges have not helped at all. An end to reduced parking rates came about earlier this year and myself and Cllr Richard Watt stated at the time that we were concerned of the impact this may have on bringing shoppers into the town centre. There have to be incentives to bring visitors into the town centre and inflated parking rates have also hit staff in smaller restaurants and shops.”
Cllr Judy Hamilton added: “The closure of M&S is disappointing for everyone. I would have liked to see M&S be part of the town centre’s redevelopment, but they have made a business decision not to do that and there is no sentiment in business. It is disappointing as I saw them as being part of the bigger picture.”