KIRKCALDY is among the worst towns in Scotland for empty shops.
The Lang Toun has the fifth highest percentage of empty retail floorspace in its town centre according to figures published in the latest report on Scottish town centres by commercial property consultants, GVA.
The report shows 20 per cent of floorspace in Kirkcaldy’s town centre is lying vacant.
Paisley topped the list with 29 per cent, followed by Cumbernauld, Glenrothes and Dunfermline where 23 per cent of floorspace is unused.
The annual research bulletin suggests the outlook for the Scottish retail sector remains weak, particularly in the short term, in line with the national picture.
It also states “it is probable that vacancy rates are currently slightly higher than the figures mentioned” given the current economic climate with more retailers struggling and entering administration.
Bill Harvey, manager of Kirkcaldy4All, said the information provided was “interesting”.
He told the Press: “From the GVA research bulletin, I don’t know exactly how old the information is and how they take their measurements, but it will differ from how we measure here with Fife Council.
“GVA talk about retail space and we talk about vacant rates.
“It is as always very interesting to find out this information and how they go about it - they may be concentrating more on rental values.
“We’re interested and obviously monitor the vacancy rates and we work closely with colleagues in environment and protection services on that.
“It’s just another piece of information that can be analysed in so many different ways.
“We are working hard to revitalise Kirkcaldy town centre and I think with recent developments of the Mercat finally sold, so we did’t lose that shopping centre, that’s quite a boost and we look forward to more people coming in.”
Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance said he’d seen the figures and appreciates more needs to be done to attract retailers into town centres.
He said: “I do know the Government has a bill going through stage two just now to encourage empty properties to be put back into use.
“Before there used to be rates of relief up to 50 per cent but they stopped that.
“If the bill goes through, companies that bring properties back in will get a year’s rates relief.
“It’s an incentive for owners to bring empty shop units back into use.
“On Kirkcaldy High Street there are a number that have lain empty for a long time, we’re talking years.
“The whole ethos of the High Street has to change, we need a different culture down there.
“We need either smaller units or larger units.
“The smaller units allow people to take advantage of the Business Bonus Scheme, which helps something like 60,000 businesses in Scotland a year.
“The thing with Kirkcaldy is the units are the wrong size.
“They are not big enough for a key store to come in, but are too big for some smaller businesses.
“They are the wrong class of unit people want, so need to change them either to break them up or expand them to bigger units.
“Something has to be done.
“I do know the Scottish Government, with the bill going through just now, are trying to give an incentive.
“It’s very positive and only a good thing if shop units are being used again.”
Kay Carrington, chairman of Fife Council’s business, enterprise, economy and planning policy advisory group and vice chairman of Kirkcaldy area committee, added that work is ongoing in relation to creating a vision for Kirkcaldy town centre.
She said: “The town centre summit for Kirkcaldy has established an action programme which we are going to try and drive forward.
“It’s in its early stages and we’re still looking for views and will be speaking to stakeholders and partners in the town centre and we’re keen to speak to young people and have their input too.
“Our approach to town centres is we’ll need to sit and communicate a vision, realistically assess the current situation and identify priorities for action and programme specific proposals.
“There’s a lot of work that’s happening at the moment in terms of town centres in Fife, including Kirkcaldy and it will be ongoing in the next few months.”