Kirkcaldy BID’s radical plan to halt town centre decline

Which direction does Kirkcaldy High Street take next? (Pic: George McLuskie)
Which direction does Kirkcaldy High Street take next? (Pic: George McLuskie)

Tesco, M&S, BhS and now Debenhams. Four major retailers quitting our High Street, leaving behind huge, empty units, and a massive challenge – how do we turn this town round?

The domino effect many feared after Tesco went in 2015 is now gathering pace.

Bill Harvey and Harry Cormie from Kirkcaldy4All  (Pic: Walter Neilson)

Bill Harvey and Harry Cormie from Kirkcaldy4All (Pic: Walter Neilson)

The big closures bring TV crews and national media coverage which strengthens the message that our town centre is dead.

Changing that perceptionhas never been harder, but it is one that must be made louder than ever.

And it is one that Kirkcaldy4All intends to lead in a new way.

The BID company is poised to launch its own campaign that will put Kirkcaldy first.

And it will forge ahead with, or without, the support of Fife Council.

That marks a significant shift in approach for the BID company, which has always sought to work with the local authority, but it underlines the sense of urgency that is required to turn Kirkcaldy’s town centre round – and the growing sense of frustration at the lack of progress so far.

Full details of the plan – described as “radical” – will be unveiled in the coming weeks, but it follows on from months of work behind the scenes.

Kirkcaldy4All wants a clear vision for the next 30 years.

In a nutshell, it wants to replicate the vision and drive which transformed Dundee’s waterfront, and give Kirkcaldy’s equally scenic location a new lease of life.

The BID company is determined to lead the transformation, bringing private investors to the area, and offering a positive, can-do approach to people willing to comer to town.

Last year, it undertook a complete review of the town centre’s businesses.

In December it set up a meeting with a raft of experts from the UK’s retail, property, architecture and design and land management to look at the town’s future.

They identified the problems – and the positives.

Politicians have been briefed, and the plan is now ready to be put into the public domain. The BID inists that, unlike other blueprints, this one will work.

And – unlike all others – it puts Kirkcaldy first.

Bill Harvey, BID manager, said: “We know and appreciate there are many plans and visions that have been created and shared over the years.

“Not one – genuinely – has had Kirkcaldy at its heart.

“Not one has been shaped by the people and businesses of the town. Our plan will put that right.”

The BID has prepared documents which deliver a vibrant case for investing in Kirkcaldy’s town centre.

They promote the transport links, the town’s heritage, its coastal location, and the success of the town centre’s growing independent trade sector, which has been overshadowed by all the headline-grabbing store closures.

Harry Cormie, who chairs the BID, said: “Our review identified the increasing challenges of closures of the laregest retailers, as well as the town’s disprortionate amount of historic, derelict land.

“It also presented huge opportunities, not least of all our natural and infrastructural assets.“

Bill Harvey, BID manager, said the pace of decline underlined the need for urgency.

“Our 2018 review made it very clear that something radical was needed.

”The ongoing store closures and headlines created by the sale of The Postings put us in the spotlight.

“These, and other reasons, made us realise we cannot wait for others to help us,

“We cannot stand by and wait to see what crumbs we get from the table.”

The next stage is to press the launch button, and get people on board.

Mr Harvey added: “We will share more on this over the coming weeks.

“We recognise the urgency.

“We undestand the pressures on businesses investing in Kirkcaldy, and we want to help create a vision for our town that will best support these, and others, and attract new investment in all sectors.

“Our aim is to support our town today and tomorrow - and put Kirkcaldy first.”