Kirkcaldy after Lockdown: Make much more of our coastline

Close links to Edinburgh need to be tapped into

By Allan Crow
Friday, 15th May 2020, 4:40 pm
Join in the FFP's Civic Conversation
Join in the FFP's Civic Conversation

Kirkcaldy has now passed 50 days in lockdown.

The long road back has yet to begin, but the discussions on how we take those steps have.Starting up once again is going to be an enormous challenge as politicians, business and community leaders and opinion makers have to balance protecting lives with safeguarding livelihoods.

That’s why the Fife Free Press has launched its Civic Conversation. Every voice has to be heard as we look to bring our town - and specifically our town centre - out of lockdown.

What does the Lang Toun have to do to tackle its known issues? What ambitious, bold vision is needed to finally tap into its potential? And what should be our priorities when the doors have re-opened?

Alan West responded to our Civic Conversation with a detailed paper on how the town could capitalise on its assets, and its location.

He is the author of a number of business books, and worked for a variety of international companies in European and international roles, Far East, Middle East. Assisted in development of Docklands Development Corporation and business planning for small to medium companies before moving into lecturing and writing.

From location to property, Kirkcaldy has much going for it, according to Alan West.

His overview of its advantages underline how much could be achieved if there is a will to deliver a town that brims with optimism and confidence.

But, it also faces challenges, and is in need of fresh thinking to unlock that potential.

Perhaps one of its key opportunities is its proximity to Edinburgh.

Many people already live in the Lang Toun and work in the capital – could that be a link which has to be fully explored?

Property prices in Edinburgh have soared beyond the reach of many.

Kirkcaldy can offer them more bang for their buck, with an easy commute back and forth.

Said Alan: “Edinburgh is congested for residents and expensive.

“The rising tide of popular objection to Edinburgh events will influence property choices.

“There are several major sites in and near Kirkcaldy centre that could be converted to retirement complexes – The Postings is a classic example. It would bring affluent consumers to Kirkcaldy who could easily access Edinburgh via bus, train and perhaps hydrofoil, and that would create an ideal backdrop for the necessary changes to the High Street.”

But those transport links also need to be improved.

“The experience of most commuters to Edinburgh is not a very happy one, with rail the best option at present,” said Alan. “The cost of hovercraft services with the required infrastructure damaged its viability. My proposal would be to investigate hydrofoil services.

“They are cheaper, faster and could run from the existing port. This would improve the attractiveness of Kirkcaldy for commuters, tourists and residents.”

The 2007 hovercraft trial which drew such interest was seen as pivotal to the development of the waterfront.

There were plans – or, at least, an aspiration for, for waterfront flats and offices down at Seafield, near the proposed terminal.

But councillors in Edinburgh showed little enthusiam and their decision to block landing in Seafield, Portobello, effectively left the idea stone dead in the water.

Is the time right for a hydrofoil? Is there an operator willing to invest and commit?

Such a move would certainly tie in with Alan’s other key focus – our waterfront.

The town turned its back on its greatest asset generations ago, and all efforts to spark change have been piecemeal – and with limited success.

Alan said: “Successful coastal towns integrate their sea front far more effectively than Kirkcaldy. Look at Barcelona, Montevideo as models.

“The current plans for modification of the road here completely fail in this objective. What currently pulls the Kirkcaldy resident/ tourist to the sea front? Nothing, except the coastal path. It is a major attraction, but it suffers from a lack of continuity.”

He pinpointed three areas which could be improved with limited investment:

“The route past the Esplanade going south could be provided with a wooden walkway at limited cost.

“The port area in Kirkcaldy – if the lock gates were re-instated walkers could continue directly onto Pathhead Sands to the benefits of Kirkcaldy citizens as well.

“The path north of Dysart is in poor repair and needs attention. If properly signposted and web enabled, it would bring significant business to food, drink and accommodation services in Kirkcaldy which would provide an adequate rate of return.”

And the links to the Forth also offer other untapped opportunities.

“It has one of the largest safe anchorages in the United Kingdom, but is very underutilised,” he said.

“Compare the volume of activity in the Solent, with yachting, boat building, and marina activity.

“Though the costs of marina construction would be high, intermediate steps of boat storage and competitions - yacht, power boat, windsurfing, water ski-ing - would yield good initial results and build on Kirkcaldy’s standing.

“The use of one of the docks in Dundee provides a useful example of what can be done.”

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Thank you

Allan Crow, Editor, Fife Free Press