Plans to make Kirkcaldy’s waterfront a proper focal point for the town are progressing.
With designs to make the Esplanade single carriageway for more car parking; cinema and theatre projects gathering momentum, and plans for the introduction of rickshaws, food outlets and green gym equipment, there’s lots going on around the prom.
And a public consultation afternoon held by the Kirkcaldy Waterfront group at the weekend gave locals and visitors the opportunity to have their say on some of the ideas being put forward.
The amalgamation of the various initiatives is something which Councillor Neil Crooks, chairman of the Kirkcaldy area committee is excited about.
“The single carriageway plans go back nine years when the committee decided it would be a good idea to reduce the two lanes each way to one from the traffic lights at the east end right along to Nicol Street, but nothing was ever done,” he said.
“It was taken up by the Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions group as a way of linking the area between the sea and the High Street, and we managed to include it in the budget in February, with around £500,000 available for work.
“With the plans for the Kings Theatre and a new cinema and restaurants on the site of the old swimming pool, there will be a need for more parking in the area, and that is what is driving this forward.
“Alongside the rickshaw plans and someone interested in bringing watersports such as jet skis and windsurfing, as well as the work being done by the Waterfront group on ‘Kirkcaldy’s Waterfront Mile’ and Growing Kirkcaldy’s great work along the Esplanade and Volunteer’s Green areas, things are starting to come together.”
And Bob Evans of Muir, Smith Evans planning consultants for the cinema proposals said things were moving forward following the 12-week public consultation which attracted hundreds of people in the Mercat Shopping Centre.
He said 300 forms had been filled in with the overwhelming majority in favour of bringing a cinema to the old swimming pool site.
“We have had further discussions with Fife Council and are nearing completion of the technical studies and reports as well as the final designs and plans and should be in a position n top submit a planning application within the next few weeks,” he said.
Helen Manzie, lead officer of the Kirkcaldy’s Waterfront sub group, part of Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions which has been working on improvements for the town centre area, helped organise the public consultation afternoon on the prom on Saturday.
She explained that the event was to promote and consult with prom users on two potential projects which emerged from the big community consultation held last June.
The projects were ‘Kirkcaldy’s Waterfront Mile’ a series of distance markers at quarter mile intervals along the mile-long stretch of the prom.
These markers have been temporarily stencilled along the storm road to let the public see what they could look like.
The second is the installation of ‘green gym’ equipment on and around the raised dias on the prom, mainly intended to attract older users as part of a fitness promotion.
“What we did was hand out specially designed Kirkcaldy postcards for people to fill in, saying what they thought and having a chat with them about what they thought about the proposals and what they would like to see,”she said.
“We had a great response, with around 60 written responses, but what really amazed me was that people were coming from quite a distance to use the prom.
“We had people from Edinburgh who had a caravan at Pettycur, visitors from Livingston who came through specially to walk there, and regular walkers from Dunfermline.
“People were talking to us about developments they have seen elsewhere which they thought would be good in Kirkcaldy and there was a real appetite from users to engage with us and give authentic feedback.”
Susan Keenlyside, lead professional for sustainable transport, with Fife Council said: “A scheme is currently being designed which would see the Esplanade reduced to a single carriageway between Tolbooth Street and Port Brae.
“The central planters would be removed to allow approximately 100 new on-street parking spaces to be created – from the front of the leisure centre to the end of the Esplanade service road.
“We’re also looking to improve pedestrian access through the closes and wynds to better connect the High Street to the waterfront.
“Once the designs are available people will have the opportunity to have their say before the work progresses. Subject to the necessary approvals, work is scheduled to be carried out during the current financial year.”
Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance welcomed the plan, saying: “We have the potential to use the whole of the prom for other activities which will encourage people to come into town, spend money and boost the local economy, helping local traders.
“There’s huge potential there which we’ve never used in the past. It will help boost the image of the town.”
Bill Harvey from Kirkcaldy4All added: “The whole thing is about getting Kirkcaldy to utilise its unique selling point which is our waterfront and getting what we can out of it.
“People enjoy the prom, around 20,000 a month walk down there. It’s a fantastic view, it’s a great place for recreation, it has a lot of positives.
“This is a level of investment that we haven’t seen for many years. It’s all part of a plan to rejuvenate the town centre. If we can attract more people to Kirkcaldy, to come down through the town centre to use the waterfront, hopefully that brings an economic benefit to traders in the town centre also.”