Seven-month revamp of Kirkcaldy High Street becomes almost a year

The £1 million regeneration of the west end of Kirkcaldy High Street has been hit with yet another delay which will now see the work run until winter.

Thursday, 4th August 2016, 11:30 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:36 pm

And that is also impacting on the timetable to re-open Charlotte Street – a key project put forward by Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions to link the waterfront and the town centre.

The aim was to do the work on the back of the west end revamp.

Now, the Press understands, it will go out to tender, meaning it could be several months before any start is made on creating the direct road to the waterfront.

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Cllrs David Ross and Judy Hamilton

It is understood they have run out of slabs to lay on the new-look pavements – and can’t get started until more granite is supplied.

The troubled project is the third and final phase of a long-running town centre improvement project which started in the east end a number of years ago.

Work in the west end began in January to upgrade footpaths, road surfaces, parking and street lighting.

It was meant to be completed by the end of July, but the timetable has been hit by a series of delays.

Last month it was announced that work would over run by at least five weeks.

Now, contractor Land Engineering has reported to Fife Council that it is running short of the materials needed to finish the job – leading to yet another setback.

Work is now expected to be completed in November – four months later than was originally scheduled.

The plan is to remove all the barriers and debris, and re-open the west end until workers can return and complete the job.

Councillor David Ross, Fife Council Leader and Kirkcaldy councillor, said he was “bitterly disappointed” at this latest setback – and ordered Land Engineering to minimise disruption to businesses.

He said: “We’ve been badly let down by the contractor.

“We met on site with Land Engineering and council officials on Friday and insisted that everything possible should be done to minimise the impact of this delay on local shops and High Street users.

“We hope the current work to create additional on street parking and new footways will be completed and that the west end of the High Street can be opened up again while the contractors move on to other parts of the project.”

He added: “They’ll then return to finish off the remaining elements of the work with final completion due by November.”

Kirkcaldy councillor Judy Hamilton said she was concerned with the impact on local traders.

“I sympathise with the traders affected by the on-going improvement work and ask for their continued patience,” she said.

“We’ll do all we can to see that this further delay disrupts their business as little as possible.”

Ken Gourlay, head of service for assets, transportation and environment said: “We apologise to the residents of Kirkcaldy and High Street traders for the delays to this project.

“It’ll be nearer November before these works are completely finished.

Cllrs David Ross and Judy Hamilton

“We’re doing everything within our power to ensure Land Engineering address our concerns and find ways to reduce these delays.”

He added: “Any additional costs incurred by these delays should be absorbed by the contractor.”

Over the next month Land Engineering plan to complete all the new parking areas along the High Street and footpaths from Olympia Arcade to Tony’s Takeaway.

This will then leave the junctions at Nicol Street and Charlotte Street/Whytehouse Avenue to be completed by November.

Bill Harvey, manager of the town centre BID, Kirkcaldy 4 All, has called for all roadworks to be cleared during the delay.

He said: “The loss of trade, which there has undoubtedly been, hasn’t been good for the businesses along there. I know of one which is down 20 per cent on the same period last year.

“I hope that the site is completely shut down prior to Land Engineering moving off while we wait for the granite to be resupplied to help these traders to get back on track.”

Mr Harvey said it was businesses that were bearing the brunt of the ongoing setbacks.

“We knew it was going to be difficult, it always is when your doing public realm works,” he said, “However the contract hasn’t run smooth from the start.

“I think that the key point which is being missed here is that the council and the contractor can discuss all they want, but it is the traders that are picking up the tab for this.”

Willie Hodge, owner of Rugs and Runners at the west end has called on the council to cancel shop rates during the extended delay.

He said: “My walk-in trade is down by at least 70 per cent.

“We went to the council and asked it would drop the rates for us while this work is going on – but it won’t do it.

“We’re now at the stage where we can’t afford to pay our rates; we’re worrying about how we are going to pay anything.

“We’re struggling because we can’t get people over the door because of all the mess.

“They are effectively killing our business so the council needs to help.

“If they take the rates off we might survive.”

Mr Hodge, a former contracts manager in the building trade, added: “I said from day one that they would over run because they over estimated what they could do.

“I blame the council and the contractors equally for this mess. This job has been a farce from day one.”