Unlocking the £1m fund for Kirkcaldy town centre


There’s £1m to be spent on our town centre - and the shortlist of projects is starting to take shape.

The next few weeks will see a report go before the area committee and then the final decisions made on where to start.

The £1m may not be burning a hole in our pockets, but the clock is starting to tick. It is coming up to the second anniversary of the town centre summit, and the title of its report underlines what has to happen now.

It’s time for action.

The summit has already led to the creation of Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions, a new umbrella group which brings together a number of key organisations, and it has now picked up on the priorities in the summit’s blueprint and put some more meat on the bones for councillors to consider.

There are projects which can be started within a matter of months, each delivering clear benefits, but more importantly, they form part of a much bigger picture - picking up the vision outlined in ‘Time For Action’ and making it a reality.

That blueprint clearly sets out the vision for a revived Kirkcaldy which taps into its heritage and history, brings more visitors and tourists to town, and finally capitalises on the natural asset of our waterfront.

It’s a long-term project, but one which brings together a number of key players and taps into the knowledge and enthusiasm of many local businesses and individuals.

The £1m town fund will go some way to laying those foundations.

The initial projects going before councillors include the first moves to improve the town’s single biggest bugbear - parking.

The shortcomings of the multi-storey car parks have been well documented - they are dank, dark and avoided by many families and old folk. Usage is somewhere between 20 to 25 per cent ... or, if you like, three-quarters of the bays are simply not used.

The Ambitions Group wants to refurbish the floor of the Esplanade multi-storey which leads directly into the Mercat Shopping Centre.

By installing better lighting, widening the bays - two taking up the space of the existing three - and painting the floor surfaces, it can set a new standard for town centre parking; one that meets the expectations of locals and visitors.

It also wants to trial parking payments by text and smart phones - more steps along the road of creating a policy that works for Kirkcaldy and the businesses which are crucial to the future prosperity of the town centre.

‘‘Money well spent’’ was how Neil Crooks, chairman of Kirkcaldy area committee, described it - a view echoed by Ambitions’ board members.

Bill Harvey, manager, Kirkcaldy4All, said: ‘‘When you speak to BID levy payers, parking is top of almost everyone’s agenda - the perception is it is a barrier to letting them continue to trade and operate in town.’’

By refurbishing one floor, the Ambitions board wants to show visitors and locals how parking facilities should be - safe, bright, modern, clean and welcoming.

But that’s just stage one.

The issue of pay-on-exit remains under discussion while the push for a local parking policy continues.

Cllr Crooks admits the Fife-wide regulations don’t work for Kirkcaldy.

‘‘We are pushing for more autonomy for Kirkcaldy,’’ he said. ‘‘We have local issues - should we make the car parks in Nicol Street and Coal Wynd, at either end of the High Street, free and bring people in from there? Would pay on exit be better for us? We don’t have the autonomy to do that, but I believe we can find local solutions.

‘‘Because we have far more Council owned parking in our town centre than any of Fife’s other large towns, the impact of change here is far more significant. As local councillors we cannot sit back and accept the status quo and a local parking plan will be drawn up for our colleagues across Fife to consider.’’

One area the £1m CAN improve immediately is the crumbling steps leading from The Postings to the High Street.

It’s one of the first projects to be launched, with a complete revamp, and also make better use of the space under Hill Street which is currently home to the occasional busker - a possible pitch for a coffee shop?

The centre owners and Tesco have also been contacted to be part of the improvement works.

‘’It cleans up a busy area of the town, and will look so much better,’’ added Cllr Crooks.

The new signs and information boards already planned for the town centre are also to be exten ded to the waterfront as the group looks to bring them together.

The year will see other ideas backed - a whole number are in the pipeline - along with a key plan to maximise the £1m by taking on an expert to secure match funding from other organisations for specific projects.

The ‘Time For Action’ plan has been developed, and now has four themes which are seen as key to driving the town centre forward:

1. The Waterfront:

Imagine a waterfront which was a natural outdoor fitness circuit ... with new creative works of art ...a waterfront which celebrated the town’s history and culture as it took you from the basin to the harbour, and lopped back into the heart of the High Street... an outdoor gym in Volunteers Green ...

With work on the new sea wall close to completion, the Esplanade offers a new blank canvas on which ideas and projects can be developed.

Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions is looking at re-opening Charlotte Street to re-connect with the Esplanade.

2. Social quarter:

How do we make Kirkcaldy a good place to work, shop and spent time - and money - in?

The social quarter covers retail and the pedestrinaised zone, but also looks at the creation of more residential space in town, the steps that can be taken to make it nore attractive, parking, and better signage.

3. Merchants’ Quarter:

By tapping into the history and legacy of Adam Smith we can bring a new dimension to the east end - from niche market and specialist businesses to developing the Adam Smith Trail to the creation of the visitor centre at 1 Adam Smith Close where work is already under way.

4. Culture & heritage:

From music, comedy and books festivals to Kirkcaldy Galleries - the town’s rich cultural and creative sectors have much to offer.

By curating and supporting events we create a vibrant town with even reasons to visit, stay ... and spend!