Landlords and agents cannot be allowed to leave eyesores on our High Street

Businesses come and go, but the buildings they once occupied all seem to end up being forgotten about.
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And we’re left staring at the eyesores.

Kirkcaldy is no different to any other Scottish town in having to live with the boarded up fronts, the shored up windows and the ‘To Let’ signs which seem to hang more in hope than anything else.

They make for a depressing sight - a reminder of what we have lost that casts a dark shadow over every new business opening trying to bring new life to the street.

Two Kirkcaldy High STreet eyesores - the premises once occupied by BhS and M&STwo Kirkcaldy High STreet eyesores - the premises once occupied by BhS and M&S
Two Kirkcaldy High STreet eyesores - the premises once occupied by BhS and M&S

This week’s fire at the old WHSmith came as no surprise.

I walked past the back door at the start of last week.

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It had been booted in, and the premises were wide open. I could easily have wandered in and explored the upper floor. The lingering smell of cannabis and pitch black interior suggested that was not a good move, so I reported it to the police.

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In pictures: The battle to tackle a fire at Kirkcaldy High Street store

Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon. I drove along Hill Street and the same back door was still wide open. Four hours later, I was back filming the fire crews from the roof of the old Tesco carpark.

Nine crews, plus police and an ambulance were at the scene - a huge response from the emergency services.

There’s a clear problem of groups hanging round the town centre causing damage to property right now. They got inside the old Postings and trashed it.

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They have also been linked to anti-social behaviour - shoving supermarket trolleys down the vennels into the High Street where they could easily bowl someone over, damaging bus shelters and basically wrecking anything within their line of vision.

There’s nothing more scunnering than vandalism. Pointless damage caused by youths with too much time on their hands and no respect for their own town. It’s an tiresome, age-old problem.

The issue of what should happen to vacated buildings is another.

Right now, Kirkcaldy High Street has a few abominations.

The front of the old BhS is awful. The entrance is boarded up, the large windows are just manky. You’d never know the back half of the building is home to a smart looking new JobCentre.

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M&S - currently home to a COVID testing centre - is looking increasingly shabby and uncared for, while the former premises of the Royal Bank and Clydesdale Bank are downright disgraceful. I could easily list another dozen.

Landlords - and the absentee ones are the absolute worst - and their agents need to be held responsible for the state of the buildings, and made to do more than just making sure they’re wind and watertight.

They are free to leave town, but they should have an obligation to ensure the don’t leave behind another derelict slum. It’s their mess. They should be made to pay to clear it up on a regular basis. Their obligations shouldn’t end when they lock the doors for the last time.

This town deserves better. The businesses investing in it deserve better.

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WHSmith is just the latest grim sight to arrive on the High Street.

I’d like to think it’ll be the last. I’ve been around too long to know, it won’t be.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Fife Free Press.