Residents and businesses asked for their views
If you had £1 million to spend on Kirkcaldy town centre, how would you use it?
That is the question being asked by the head of the town’s area committee, Councillor Neil Crooks, who wants locals to give their views on how the funding could be invested.
The move follows last month’s announcement by Fife Council leader Alex Rowley - that Kirkcaldy is in line for a £1 million cash boost as part of plans to help regenerate the town centre.
The news was revealed as the Council and the Fife Economic Partnership set out their ambitious new 10 year economy strategy for the Kingdom.
The funding allocation is to be included in this month’s Council draft budget proposals, following the success of a similar project in Dunfermline.
If the draft plans are approved, they will feature in next year’s Fife Council budget with Kirkcaldy Area Committee deciding how the money should be spent.
Last year Dunfermline was given a one-off million pound cash boost from the Labour-led administration and the money has been used to fund various community schemes including new digital signage, wi-fi, lighting up historical buildings across the city centre and a new arts facility.
The money for Kirkcaldy is being discussed by the Kirkcaldy Ambitions Group today (Thursday) but Neil Crooks, who is also a ward councillor for Kirkcaldy North, would welcome ideas from local people as well as town centre traders to find out how they would like to see the cash spent.
He did stress, however, that at the moment the funding is only a proposal included in the minority Labour administration’s draft budget - but he told the Press he is hopeful Kirkcaldy will be allocated the cash.
Cllr Crooks said: “I would encourage people to give us their views and challenge us, as an area committee, to deliver.
“It is important that people give us their input. We already have the Time for Action report which is being delivered by the Kirkcaldy Ambitions Group and that will certainly inform the spending priorities. But that does not prevent further ideas being introduced which align with the aims of that action plan.
“Our town centres are fighting for their lives and this money is going to help that fight. We want to have a vibrant town centre and this funding is giving people hope for the future. We can make a difference.”
Councillor Crooks is aware of people’s ambitions for the town centre, particularly their wish for a cinema. He said the area committee absolutely wants to attract a cinema to Kirkcaldy waterfront but it’s not Council money that builds cinemas.
He said: “What we can do with this money is smooth the way for a cinema provider to come to Kirkcaldy by creating the right environment to attract them.
“The Council has spent around £33 million in the past few years in the Kirkcaldy area and that is significant. We need to improve parking in and around the waterfront and remove the dual carriageway and that work will hopefully encourage a cinema to the waterfront area if they don’t have to spend money on parking.”
He continued: “What I would like to do is take that £1 million and make it into £2 or £3 million by using it to draw in funding and grants from developers or other sources.
“This could be done by using some of the £1 million cash to commission a feasibility study which would look at developing Kirkcaldy’s heritage quarter and the waterfront including re-designing the Esplanade to make it a single carriageway and create more car parking.
“Developers may be put off delivering facilities like cinemas if they have to also find money to create car parking to go with them, so if we can create the right circumstances whereby provision for car parking is already there, this is more likely to attract investors.
“I think business opportunities could be created at the waterfront including a sea-facing cinema complex and we need to find a way of making it happen.
“By doing a feasibility study we can then take the ideas forward and make a business case so they can be delivered.”
He said there is no requirement for spending the £1 million within a set timescale so there is no rush to use it.
Councillor Crooks said the area committee will be working alongside other partners such as Kirkcaldy Ambitions Group, Kirkcaldy4All and the Adam Smith Global Foundation when it comes to the best way of allocating the funding.
He added: “Developers do keep an eye on things and we want to encourage the private sector to come to Kirkcaldy and enhance what we already have on offer.
“We want them to know Kirkcaldy is open for business.”
Town Centre traders’ views
La Speranza cafe and snack bar, Kirkcaldy High Street, West End
Tammy Anderson, manageress, said: “I think the money should be used to create more car parking. They have taken away parking for customers at the front of the shop and the loss of the parking at Tolbooth Street has also had an impact. It would be good to have free parking too as it costs a fortune to park in the town, especially if you work here all day.”
BHS STORE, KIRKCALDY HIGH STREET, CENTRE
Fiona Smith, manager, said: “We need more advertising signage in the town centre to put us back on the map as well as free parking. The loss of the parking spaces at Tolbooth Street has had a huge impact on our trade.”
HSK MUSIC SHOP, KIRKCALDY HIGH STREET, EAST END
Robbie McNaughton, assistant manager, said: “More parking is the obvious issue and it should be free. The loss of the parking at Tolbooth Street has had a major effect particularly on businesses in the east end. There should be signage in the town centre which lets people know what is down this end of the High Street because the main thing customers tell us is they didn’t know we were here.”
The town’s MP’s views
Gordon Brown welcomed the launch of the consultation on the £1 million cash proposal for Kirkcaldy town centre.
He told The Press: “Kirkcaldy has now secured £50 million of investment from Fife Council for the new school, the new old people’s centre and for new housing.
“But the £1 million earmarked for the town centre could make a very big difference to how the High Street looks, who uses it for shopping, and who wants to live nearby. I am pleased Neil Crooks has started a consultation and I hope that when we have our plans, we can apply to the National Lottery Fund and to the new Town Centre Fund for additional support.”
He added: “I hope the plans for the High Street can blend well with the work of the new Adam Smith Global Foundation in renovating the Merchant Quarter.”