Developing Kirkcaldy’s waterfront is more important than ever for the regeneration of the town’s High Street in the wake of the M&S closure announcement.
That was the verdict of the majority of Kirkcaldy’s councillors when they rejected a call to suspend the council’s £1.4 million Esplanade improvement project.
They also rejected proposals by Conservative councillors Richard Watt and Kathleen Leslie to bring reports on removing car parking charges from the town centre; reducing business rates and depedestrianising the High Street to the next committee meeting.
The motion at Tuesday’s Kirkcaldy area committee was lambasted as “irresponsible” by Cllr David Ross, joint leader of Fife Council who moved an amendment confirming the committee’s commitement to the next stage of the Esplanade redevelopment and accelerates the work being done to regenerate the High Street.
The amendment was approved by nine votes to two.
Raising the motion, Cllr Watt said: “This committee roundly congratulated itself at the last meeting when proposals were discussed for a change to road layout on the esplanade and the re-siting of viewing platforms, which may improve the experience of the visitor on both sunny days every year.
“The high street currently operates with all of the downsides of an indoor mall, but none of the benefits. It’s like Ocean Terminal, but without a roof, or a free car park, or a cinema. There is no opportunity for passing trade, if I’m picking up a snack on the way to work it’s easier to visit the out of town McDonald’s than Baynes on the high street.”
Cllr Ross said: “People recognise the need to reconnect the High Street and the Esplanade.
“We’ve put together funding and agreed the design of this important proposal and you want to stop it? I don’t think so.”
He added that discussions were already well underway on parking charges.
“Evidence from our parking trial showed that there was limited impact. Free car parking isn’t a silver bullet, let’s not pretend it is.”
And he said non-domestic rates were controlled by the Scottish Government.
“The council has limited power and any concessions would have to be at the expense of other services,” he added.
“Despite the disappointment about M&S and others it is not all doom and gloom. There are positive developments with new cafes, independent retailers, new housing and new cultural facilities. The closure is a setback but it should spur us to accelerate our efforts, not stop them.”
Cllr Alistair Cameron added: “Why on earth do you think cancelling the waterfront project would be advantageous? If that was the case I don’t know where Dundee would be.”
Cllr Ian Cameron said: “The waterfront is part of the town’s identity. We’re searching for an identity and that’s part of the identity.”
And Cllr Judy Hamilton added: “I think that we have to progress with the waterfront development. I passionately believe that if we build a public realm then people will come.”