Retail park plan ‘a direct challenge to Kirkcaldy town centre’

Artist impression of new shopping units at former Homebase site at Fife Central Retail Park
Artist impression of new shopping units at former Homebase site at Fife Central Retail Park

An objection to a proposed development at Kirkcaldy’s Retail park has been lodged by the group tasked with improving the town centre.

Kirkcaldy 4 All, the town’s BID, submitted its objection after plans were announced in January by London-based development group Hammerson, to open up to five units on the site of the empty Homebase store.

Hammerson’s application also says it would create around 230 jobs and generate £3m annually for the local economy.

But Bill Harvey, Kirkcaldy 4 All manager, says if the plan goes ahead it would have a detrimental effect on the High Street.

“If you think about the retail park, in essence they are set up to sell big white boxes, things you wouldn’t come to a town centre to pick up, and that’s fine- they have their place and that’s why it was set up,” he says.

“But the owners of the retail park then expanded it to phase two which had a detrimental effect on the town centre.

“They then brought in a massive B&Q and Homebase couldn’t compete with that.

‘‘It’s the owners that have created this situation and now have an empty space that they can’t fill, so they’ve come up with this plan of five new units.”

The objection runs to seven pages and Bill says: “We’ve objected on several fronts as it goes against the town centre’s first principle, it goes against development plans and how they assess the retail impact is different from how we do it.

“They’re trying to recreate a High Street up in the north end of Kirkcaldy.”

Hammerson took the unusual step of writing directly to business owners in the town centre, laying out its proposal, which Bill says is “glib”.

“They say it will create temporary construction jobs, but will they come from Kirkcaldy? How many people went to their public consultation?

“The letter mentions restrictions will be put in place, but how would they be enforced and for how long? We’ve already seen an erosion of that from phase one already.

“They are very vague on what they say and on what they want to do.”

The objection has the backing of BID members who have also been encouraged to object and Bill is hopeful that they will succeed, though admits it may be difficult.

“We’re trying to maintain a vibrancy here in this community and it’s just so wrong morally that they are going down this way. Everything is done purely for a business case and yes there will be jobs, but where are they going to take the jobs from? Where are they going to get the trained staff? What happens if they open a sports shop up there?

“This is a direct challenge to the High Street, make no bones about it.”