This is our legacy for Kirkcaldy

KIRKCALDY;'(centre) LOUIS GOODMAN of City Site Estates, with architects'photo; WALTER NEILSON
KIRKCALDY;'(centre) LOUIS GOODMAN of City Site Estates, with architects'photo; WALTER NEILSON

THE numbers are huge.

A £50m project generating 1350 jobs - 450 during construction, and 850 in retail and support services.

The proposed expansion of The Mercat is by far the largest single project in the town centre for decades, but it comes with two caveats.

If it cannot secure a supermarket as its anchor tenant then nothing will happen.

And if Invertiel is given the go-ahead, all bets are off.

The stakes are certainly high, and the decisions councillors take next week will set the direction of the town for a generation or more.

‘‘This is their legacy to the town,’’ said Jim McCain, group property director with CSE.

‘’And it’s ours too ...’’

Scheduled in four phases spanning some seven years - potential completion could be 2018 - the expanded Mercat would run from the tip of Volunteers’ Green along to Tolbooth Street, and include a new cinema, tenpin bowling alley, hotel, and larger retail units which would attract big names such as H&M and Primark.

A new multi-storey car park would go up in Charlotte Street, while the one in Thistle Street would be demolished, and the existing swimming pool would go. Even the landmark that was Jackie O nightclub would be swallowed up as part of the development - CSE are in talks to buy the venue which closed last year.

The blueprint, however, hinges on securing a supermarket as its main tenant

Morrisons has been resolute in its view that Invertiel is their sole interest, stating the Mercat cannot accommodate its requirements, while Tesco has yet to be won over. CSE believes either store would work.

Louis Goodman, managing director, said: ‘‘We have created their standard stores which take on board all the comments made, we’ve reconfigured the units and we’ve had a lot of dialogue with them We are confident we can accommodate a standard Tesco or Morrisons within our scheme.’’

Supermarket key

He backs up his case for a supermarket within the town centre by highlighting both companies currently operate those models across the UK - and how things have changed since Tesco were last in the Mercat around 20 years ago when they occupied the old Woolworth site.

‘‘Supermarkets want a front-of-street site.’’ he said.

‘‘They have that with this development - it gives them the brand identity they want. It has car parking and it offers a store two and half times the size they (Tesco) currently occupy.’’

But it needs one of the big two to sign on the dotted line to kick-start its development - and that’s why CSE believes giving Invertiel the green light would seriously impact on their plans.

In fact if the committee gives the Seafield project the go-ahead, CSE will lose its major partner.

The development company in discussions with the mall owners has said its interest in concluding a deal is ‘‘entirely conditional on planning consent being unequivocally refused’’ for Invertiel.

‘‘This is key,’’ said Mr McCain. ‘‘They are the ideal partner in terms of finance and retail connections,. They have the ability and knowledge to deliver the tenants, and will liaise with the key contractors. They bring a hell of a lot to the party - but if both consents are granted then they will leave.’’

While McDonald Estates, the company driving the Invertiel development, believe the town is big enough for both, CSE’s view is very different. It’s an either-or - underlining the big call that awaits councillors on Wednesday.

Invertiel fears

‘‘It’s clear to us that if Invertiel is granted then the town centre regeneration, as I see it, will not happen. If two consents are given, we will not happen.

‘‘We need a food store and if Morrisons go elsewhere then it will kill it,’’ said Mr Goodman.

‘‘Our traffic assessment plan has been approved - Invertiel’s has not. We offer more employment benefits - 1350 against 350, with substantial construction jobs over a number of years.’’

Picking up the theme of regeneration, Mr McCain added: ‘‘The town needs this to happen. It will make a huge difference and take it into a different league. It gives Kirkcaldy all of the things it is looking for - there is a leisure aspect to it with a cinema, tenpin bowling, a hotel and the new pool.

‘‘The High Street will be enlivened as well because we are offering units for large space users which are not offered elsewhere. Footfall will rise dramatically and when people come here they will also visit the High Street - this is an opportunity to bring to Kirkcaldy big national multiples we cannot accommodate right now.

‘’It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’’

If councillors grant permission next week, the next stage will be to secure the key tenant and kick-start the first phase of work.

On site

CSE are confident they can be on site this year, working on the multi-story car park, and it is open to amending the phases to meet demand from developers while working around a busy town centre.

‘‘We cannot blitz the town,’’ added Mr McCain. ‘‘‘We have to do this in phases to ensure minimum disruption, but the phases are a moving feast.’’

‘‘We are very excited about this. We’ve lived with this scheme for six years and would love to see it happen. It is so important for the town.’’

Their message to the area committee was direct: ‘‘Give us the consent and let us get on with it.’’

Added Mr Goodman: ‘‘We have a partner on board who will help deliver the extension. If we get the go-ahead we will deliver an anchor tenant which will lead to town centre regeneration.

‘‘If both consents are granted, there is a real risk The Mercat regeneration will fall apart.’’