Change is happening now, says Kirkcaldy4All

It's fair to say last week's Fife Free Press front page sparked a huge debate.

Friday, 6th May 2016, 12:10 pm
Updated Friday, 6th May 2016, 1:12 pm
Kirkcaldy High Street - it's a case of use it or lose it...

The roll call of shops which have vanished from our High Street and town centre evoked many memories - and some criticism.

In the two days since we published, the list was doubled in length - we now have almost 100 names submitted by readers.

Some go back generations, some are long forgotten, a few only recently quit the street, but every shop played its part in making Kirkcaldy a great destination.

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But there is a flip side to the roll call of shops we’ve lost... many more have moved in.

Some 25 shops have opened in the past 24 months. The former Yes campaign shop on the corner of Kirk Wynd is currently being fitted out, there’s a new organic store in the east end, the Post Office has recently opened a general store, the restaurant at the old Lawley’s China shop on the corner of Charlotte Street is open for business once more, and there’s new life in the old McDonald’s building at last.

And that’s despite the ‘Tesco effect’ still rippling across the town - the fish merchant in The Postings has seen footfall collapse - while the night-time economy continues to face real challenges.

The High Street isn’t dying – it’s changing.

That’s the message from Kirkcaldy4All, the company set up to help support and develop the town centre.

Bill Harvey, BID manager, admits it’s a challenge, but one he believes can be delivered.

He said: “High Streets change. retail changes. and customers’ shopping habits change. From a retail point of view we should consider the change in the UK economy and the effects of austerity politics coupled with a yearly increase in non-domestic business rates and in some circumstances rents. Many retailers are struggling to cope with out of town retail, online and increased overheads.

“Add to this members of the public demanding a town centre retail offering but failing to support it. Kirkcaldy Town Centre has an oversupply of retail units and so looks far worse than it is.

“For far too long we have heard that town centres are important – indeed in Fife it could be argued that they are the cornerstone of the Kingdom’s economy - but that real investment is often too little or too late and designed to paper over the cracks.

“Kirkcaldy is lucky. There is a plan to regenerate the town centre and waterfront. To bring it to life we need to align financial, political, public and business investment, all of which are hard to achieve.

“This is not the end of the town centre or High Street but a phase of rebalancing, rebranding and change of use.

“What we are working hard to achieve is to help shape a successful future for Kirkcaldy: to make the town attractive to those looking to invest. “To help new businesses start up. To help new community projects launch - to benefit businesses, residents and visitors alike.”