Kirkcaldy High Street: we need joined-up strategy to get behind – Neale Hanvey
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The emergence of new initiatives during the pandemic and the way communities came together to support the vulnerable speaks volumes; however, local traders who thought they had experienced the very worst of times now face a shopping list of challenges in the Covid aftermath.
A perfect storm of Tory chaos, greed and the upending of the economy, has left many businesses on the edge. Despite setting up promotions, events, and collaborations, they continue to struggle.
Folk are terrified and exhausted. With the recent news that another shop has closed in the Merchant’s Quarter, what can be done to kickstart regeneration on Kirkcaldy High Street? Constituents tell me more council consultations that lead nowhere, or ideas that require the unicorn of developer investment are not what they need, they are desperate for quick measurable wins.
Concerned traders report a drop in footfall since parking charges on the Esplanade commenced. They would like free parking to put them on an equal footing with Glenrothes and the retail parks, but some in Fife Council remain doggedly resistant to such obvious solutions.
It’s high time the transport department accepted parking is not the cash cow it once was. While I’ve had several productive meetings with council officers and others to discuss the issues, what I’ve seen is more impressive, yet hard to realise possibilities. Perfect in an ideal world, but all requiring vast amounts of money and time – two things that are in very short supply.
To put it simply, we need a joined up and realistic strategy everyone can get behind. One that keeps its eye firmly on the vision and ambition of Love Oor Langtoun, but breaks down progress into measurable, deliverable steps that support current businesses and gives other locals the confidence to start up.
It's a simple fact that Kirkcaldy High Street will never return to the heyday of my youth with shoppers bussing in from far and wide. We also know that to thrive High Streets everywhere must reinvent their purpose with a mix of retail, leisure and residential use.
There are solutions to the problems we face right now, and we are fortunate to have some of the best officers Fife Council has on our doorstep determined to make progress. There’s no shortage of positive energy, but only together can we put Kirkcaldy back on the map.