Kirkcaldy town centre needs ‘can do’ approach

Bill Harvey,  Kirkcaldy4All  (Pic: Walter Neilson)
Bill Harvey, Kirkcaldy4All (Pic: Walter Neilson)

Plans to create a blueprint for our town centre’s future are being accelerated after the shock news M&S is set to close.

Last week’s announcement that the flagship store will close after 80 years has sparked a huge debate about where Kirkcaldy’s High Street goes from here.

And with many braced for the possible loss of Debenhams – the company announced around 50 store closures over the next three to five years – Kirkcaldy4All is taking a lead role in driving the town centre forward.

Everything from parking charges to planning is now on the table in a bid to create a clear plan, and a defined timetable to make things happen.

The BID company – set up to promote and work for the town centre – will also push the case to get developers on board, to get landlords to tackle dilapidated buildings, and lobby politicians to ensure the town centre has a much greater mix of residential and leisure as retail continues to decline.

Bill Harvey, BID manager, said: “High streets throughout the UK are having to reinvent themselves. We are in that process.

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“It is very, very sad that M&S is leaving.

“It means we have to adapt, but we have been doing that for decades – go back to the 1970s and pedestrianisation was the ‘final nail’ for the town centre.

“We’ve had a remarkable number of final nails in the coffin since then.

“Now we need to wipe the slate clean and start again.”

Kirkcaldy4All’s vision for the town centre of the future is based around its branding as an independents’ town.

The Lang Toun already has more independent businesses than the national average, with the east end of the High Street an example of how empty units have been improved to bring new businesses into town.

But it is recognised that retail will no longer be king.

“We need to have a strong push towards tourism and leisure,and turn the town centre into more of a community – more leisure facilities and a greater residential mix by bringing the spaces above shops back into use,” Bill said.

“We will go out and actively encourage businesses to come here.

“We will encourage landlords to get their units filled, and push those with buildings that are decaying to sort them out.

“No door is closed to us.

“We will be playing a very active part in this, not just in retail but in the very fabric of the town centre.”

The thorny issue of parking charges is being discussed at a meeting next week, with the BID “looking for a positive response” from Fife Council to come up with a fairer deal for the town.

But it is just one issue on the ’to do’ list.

Added Bill: “We need a real ‘we can do’ attitude to make things happen – fair and equitable parking charges, a sympathetic planning process, and leadership that is strong and not afraid to think out of the box.

“All of these elements need to come together to transform Kirkcaldy’s town centre and make it a vibrant place again.

“There is a drive and desire to do it, and the business accumen is here – and we will continue to work with all organisations to get things moving.’’