Comment: Making town best place to live, work and play is ultimate goal

Neil Crooks on Kirkcaldy High Street.
Neil Crooks on Kirkcaldy High Street.

In 2012 we produced the Time for Action report and the establishment of the Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions partnership to co-ordinate delivery.

Most of that plan was delivered and some of the actions like encouraging more housing in the town centre remain valid for the next five years. Concentration on tourism will feature more in the next five years and our history and heritage ancient and modern must become more visible.

Events such as the recent fireworks display and lantern parade, the new Hogmanay under canvas in the Town Square coming soon, Fife Pride, motor bikes and Highland Games on the beach, and Bavarian Beer and Music festival and the cultural Festival of Ideas in March 2018 attract thousands of people to the area and is a growth area for us.

The partnership includes Kirkcaldy4All, Kirkcaldy Civic Society, Fife Cultural Trust, Fife College, Adam Smith Global Foundation Fife Free Press and Fife Council and that group remains committed to the next five years.

• READ MORE: Kirkcaldy regeneration: Why these projects need to happen

However we will look to expand the partnership with further representation, including the Kings Theatre group for example.

Not all of the aspirations or ambitions are in public control so closer engagement with the private sector to help delivery will be a target for the new year.

We need to have stronger relations with the owners of The Mercat and the Postings and get clarity on their plans for the future.

I am encouraged by the planning application for the Mercat.

It could deliver the multiplex cinema we all want and the demolition of the old swimming pool.

It is another indicator of progress.

We are talking about a multi-million-pound proposal which would completely reinvigorate the town centre economy and that would be something which would make the new year very merry indeed.

Since the loss of Tesco, The Postings has seen a massive reduction in footfall, and the few remaining businesses have relatively short leases. The owners have been marketing the site towards continued retail but with little reaction from the market.

Again it is not in public ownership but our Council Economic Development officers regularly engage with the owners as it is a key town centre site.

The old Co-op site remains a fenced eyesore suitable for multiple use and it would be great to see something positive happen at that location sooner rather than later.

The Kings Theatre proposal has been progressing albeit slowly but the Partnership is engaging in helping to strengthen the Board, and develop bids for funding.

A business plan is coming together and has been a serious consideration of the council’s plan to remove the dual carriageway at the Esplanade.

We will future-proof the access for the articulated lorries which accompany big stage productions and create some soft landscaping and car parking which will enhance the east end.

There is some momentum behind diverting traffic down Tolbooth Street from High Street with permanent cones. The area on High Street to Kirk Wynd would then be useable traffic-free space for on-street activity like busking or tables and chairs for outdoor coffee or ice cream on a sunny day.

The former BHS was purchased before the auction date. It is a confidence boost for the town centre to have this key site shovel-ready for business again.

The old Stagecoach garages have no future and we have been encouraging demolition for some time now.

The site is still earmarked for the hovercraft terminal but there appears little chance of that becoming a reality as Edinburgh City appears to have no appetite on its side of the Forth.

If the site is cleared then the views coming into the Esplanade from the west will be the full expanse of the Kirkcaldy Bay and waterfront. Add the Lidl development on the other side of the road and you begin to feel the new life breathing into town.

Fife Council’s continuing drive for affordable housing has seen the dereliction at the SMT garage replaced by housing on Victoria Road.

There is the massive former Nairn industrial site at Victoria Road also attracting developer interest, new Council housing at Overton Road and Beatty Crescent replacing derelict land, and the former power station site at Victoria Road is more attractive for developers with permission for the listed front facade to be demolished rather than retained.

That particular site development does sadden me as it is part of our industrial heritage but could and would have lain derelict for many more years due to the cost of saving the building for a developer. The site was on the market for £1 and there were no takers however I hope we can salvage something from the site as a reminder of the Kirkcaldy trams.

I hope to continue to work with partners old and new in the next five years, with continued Council resources being prioritised to Gallatown, Linktown, Templehall and the Castle area of Burntisland.

Making our area a better place to live work and play is ultimately the collective goal and despite all the challenges of budget cuts and austerity welfare reform and unemployment, if we work for the many and not for the few then hopefully local people and visitors will reap the benefit of our endeavours.

• Councillor Neil Crooks is Chairman of the Kirkcaldy Area Committee

If you were in charge, what would your plan be to retivalise our town centre – from the Basin to the harbour?

Which projects do you see as key to its future?

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