Redevelopment saga’s new twist

Gloria Coats, Tesco.
Gloria Coats, Tesco.

Attempts to breathe new life into the heart of Glenrothes will continue, even if the Kingdom Centre is put on the market.

And that includes continuing work to open a Tesco store at the mall.

The pledges were made after it emerged that the shopping hub would be among commercial properties owned by CIS-AXA which are being considered for sale.

The company’s spokesman, Julian Best, said: “We are conducting a strategic review, including the Kingdom Centre however, in parallel, we’re pushing on to conclude the deal with Tesco.

“The planning applications are going to committee mid-May.”

The applications had been expected to go to this month’s first ever meeting of the new Central Planning Committee.

Gloria Coates, who is Tesco’s corporate affairs manager, recently contacted town councillors after concern was expressed about the retail giant’s commitment to open at Falkand Gate/North Street.

She said: “As I’m sure you’re aware, CIS/AXA are working to assemble the various land ownerships on the site which currently include the council, the YMCA, and the CISWO.

“With regard to planning, as you may recall, we submitted our application to Fife Council in October, 2011 and we are still working to get permission for a new store on the site.

“We’re currently awaiting a Planning Committee date from the council.”

Community activists:

The re-development plans required Glenrothes YMCA-YWCA and the CISWO club to move from their current North Street premises to sites elsewhere in the town.

But, last autumn, CISWO members voted to pull out of the project, because of a lack of progress and the need to refurbish their existing premises.

Reacting to the possibility oif a sale, CISWO boss David Nelson said: “I’m not surprised by what’s happened.

“As I understand it, the company has got rid of all their stuff in Scotland, so why would they keep Glenrothes?

“It’s confirmed for me that we made the right decision last November, and it doesn’t affect us now.

“The only thing is that it’s a blow for the town if there’s that lack of commitment from the owners.

“The ideal solution would be for the council to compulsory purchase it, but do they have the money to do that?”

Glenrothes ‘Y’ director, Mary Hill, said she was aware of the developments, but did not want to comment further.

Ron Page of Glenrothes Area Futures Group stressed that any major changes in ownership of the centre were “rumours” at this stage.

He added that the group maintained regular contact with Tesco, Sainsbury - long the front runner to provide the supermarket, until Tesco became the preferred bidder - and other parties involved in retail development in the Kingdom Centre and wider town centre area.

Linda Ballingall, of Glenrothes Area Heritage Centre, said that she had been in contact with CIS and, although they had confirmed that the review was underway, it had been stressed that this would not impact any development plans for the centre, including a permanent home for GAHC.

Political reaction:

Fiona Grant, chairwoman of Glenrothes Area Committe under the previous Scottish National Party administration, was blunt in her response to Tesco’s recent assurances.

She said: “Actions speak louder than words.

“Folk in Glenrothes are fed up waiting - when will the first brick be laid in Glenrothes?”

Commenting on the possible sale, she said: “If this turns out to be true, I will be asking Fife Council to look at all available options.

“Personally, I would like to see the possibility of a community buy-out fully explored.

“Communities across Scotland have used this legislation to take control of their land - we should at least consider taking control of our high street.”

Councillor Grant’s fellow Glenrothes North, Markinch and Leslie colleague, Kay Morrison, said: “Being an optimist, I hope putative purchasers will recognise the opportunities in Glenrothes and will develop it with the creative commitment that our communities deserve, working closely with those communities to everybody’s benefit.

“After all, the Kingdom Centre has won awards, is at the top of community councillors’ and Fife councillors’ priority lists and is of crucial importance to all of us.

“This could be the turning point, the very change that our town needs.

“I look forward to a fruitful, dynamic relationship.”