Kirkcaldy town centre plan to win hearts and minds to force change

Kirkcaldy waterfront looking back from Seafield along the centre of the town
Kirkcaldy waterfront looking back from Seafield along the centre of the town

The placemaking pilot project getting underway in Kirkcaldy aims to deliver a Triple A plan - to make the town centre attractive, active and accessible.

But, before that happens, it needs to capture the hearts and minds of local folk.

And the closure announcement by Debenhams has added new urgency to get it up and running.

The Scottish Government project aims to find out what people want from their town centres – and how they should look in the future.

Placemaking is a different approach to bringing together how a community’s assets are used, managed and developed. Central to its structure is a belief that communities know best what they want – not officials or councillors, but people who work, live, shop, meet and socialise in the town centre.

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The Lang Toun was chosen because of the urgency surrounding the need to halt its rapid decline.

Kirkcaldy Placemaking was formally launched at the beginning of this month.

Since then, work behind the scenes has been focussed setting a timescale, and how it will be run.

Now the priority is getting it into the public domain, making it accessible to all - and finding some quick wins to underline this is not just anothjer talking shop.

Councillor Altany Craick, Fife Council’s economy convener believes it can be a force for positive change with local leadership, and input, both crucial.

“One of the reasons for devolving this to the Kirkcaldy area committee was that the councillors and officers working in the town know the people to speak to,” he said.

“This gives us a more cohesive approach. Kirkcaldy was chosen because there are a wide range of issues to address, and the town centre is going through big changes.

“By bringing people together, asking the right questions and finding out what they want, we can effect change.”

Cllr Craik accepts, the project needs some quick wins to gain momentum - and avoid it becoming another talking shop.

“We have to be visible. We need to show people things are happening,” he said. “The issues have been going on for years, so we need to see things getting off the ground quickly. There is a notional two year timescale, but some won’t need that long, and this project isn’t the end either. This is an on going work

“This isn’t a quick fix.”

Getting people invovled, and enthused, about the project is also a priority for Councillor Neil Crooks, chairman of Kirkcaldy area committee.

He said: “The town centre is an ever changing environment, and planning for the future not the present is our goal. I expect the closure of Debenhams to create another round of blame seeking but as chairman of Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions – which has been leading on future planning and continues to be central to the future delivery of change – we have resisted that temptation through bigger closures like Tesco and M&S and will resist looking to apportion blame in the future.

“There is no silver bullet for any High Street which could halt multi-national corporates deciding what is best for their shareholders and their business interests.

“However, locally we can agree to sharing our town centre in a way which is attractive to the public and visitors. There is a lot of space from the Path to Morrisons and how we present that space is very much in our control.”