Kirkcaldy BID reveals bold digital plan for town

Fife Free Press October 10 2019
Fife Free Press October 10 2019

Kirkcaldy could become the first major Digital Innovation District (DID) in Scotland, if a new proposal gets the green light.

It has been tabled by Kirkcaldy4All to pick up its work when it closes its doors in March 2020.

The BID company has confirmed it will not go to ballot for a third term – and instead, it wants to break new ground by becoming a DID covering the whole of the Lang Toun.

The move has been months in the planning, and now hinges on the formal endorsement of Fife Council and the approval of the Scottish Government.

And its ambitions could also depend on the outcome of a pilot project about to go to ballot in Cupar.

The BID is working with Kirkcaldy West Community Council and other partners to lay the foundations, and it has already secured support from a number of businesses.

Like a BID, it would have to be voted on by all businesses, and if the result met all the criteria – a majority of votes and in business rateable value – then it could be up and running as Kirkcaldy4All shuts down.

The plan is to run a 15-month campaign leading to a ballot at the end of 2020.

Kirkcaldy4All is currently working with Kirkcaldy West Community Council and other partners, and already has support from a number of businesses.

Harry Cormie, BID chairman, said: “There is no silver bullet, but we have a clear path to create a unique proposition for Kirkcaldy that will benefit and support multiple audiences, from businesses to residents, visitors and community groups.”

The transition from a town centre remit to town-wide – and digitally led – underlines the significant changes which have taken place over the last decade.

The BID was launched in 2009 to represent a clearly defined area of the town centre.

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Its funding came directly from businesses within that zone, together with financial support from Fife Council.

With both in decline, the board – which is made up of local businesses and councillors – took the unanimous decision not to seek a third term.

It is be the second BID to end in Fife in recent months. Dunfermline Delivers suffered an unexpected rejection in its renewal ballot.

The local authority has now injected £100,000 to keep it going for six months with a view to finding an alternative model to run the town centre.

Kirkcaldy4All is looking to the council for similar financial support – but not to prop up the BID.

Instead it wants to become a body that works for the whole of the Lang Toun on an entirely digital platform.

And if it gets the green light, then the DID would not need council cash other than its contribution as a levy payer.

It would by run by business for business – and it would support over 1000 organisations.

Bill Harvey, manager of Kirkcaldy4All, admitted the decision to call time was not taken lightly.

He said: “We have been considering many options for some months. We have had many successes over the last decade, but today’s landscape is very different from when we campaigned for our first term in 2009, or even when we won with increased support in 2015.”

“We have been able to attract and support an increasing number of dynamic independent businesses who choose to invest in Kirkcaldy.

“But, in the last 12 months, more and more businesses from outwith the BID boundary have also approached us for help.

“We have been focused on delivering for our levy payers within a relatively small area of the town. That scope has meant we have not been able to look beyond our current boundary.”

The move from BID to DID would give the proposed new body a much wider remit – and break new ground for the town.

Last year the Scottish Government launched Scotland’s Improved Districts – a national hub which backed the development of a new generation of business support.

It effectively acknowledged the BID model had run its course.

The move to a digital led body would chime with how we all live our lives.

The BID’s proposal is to campaign for a Digital Innovation District, based heavily on the ‘Cupar Now’ which goes to ballot this month – the result is due on December 13.

Any DID in Kirkcaldy would cover businesses across the town, and extend its remit far beyond retail to incorporate professional services, motor trade, leisure, tourism, and hospitality.