Fife Council is set to install large converted containers on Kirkcaldy’s waterfront to generate new business opportunities.
Councillors have committed £350,000 to the project as part of town’s £1.6m from the Scottish Government town centre funding package.
The shipping containers have been used in towns across the UK to create business opportunities such as new cafes and spaces for creative artists – and could bring new activity to the town’s seafront.
Councillors also agreed to allocate £400,000 of Kirkcaldy’s share to buying up dilapidated buildings with a new to bringing new investment to the High street - and a further £400,000 taking ownership of key buildings to enable town centre living and non-retail commercial development.
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Councillors also agreed to allocate £400,000 of Kirkcaldy’s share to buying up dilapidated buildings with a view to bringing new investment to the High Street – and a further £400,000 in taking ownership of key buildings and land to enable town centre living and non-retail commercial development.
The latter project chimes with the Scottish Government’s aspiration to create more living space for people in town centres, filling the units left empty as the retail sector contracts.
The policy and co-ordination committee also agreed to spend:
>> £20,000 on car parking improvements and better signage
○£80,000 on public realm improvements throughout the town centre to support and enable the development of an enterprising café culture and a safe and welcoming environment.
Work will include replacing and installing new seating areas and other street furniture, and bettervisitor signs.
○£80,000 creating a distinct gateway to the Merchants’ Quarter.
The council’s aim is to create a ‘boutique feel’ to the east end of the High Street – and a feature entrance will make it stand out.
>> £300,000 improving the crumbling Postings steps which connect the bus station to the High Street.
The plan is a complete re-design of the the routeusing use materials to match the design of the High Street and introducing better lighting and artwork.
○£350,000 buying four converted containers to create business opportunities on the waterfront, better lighting and improvements to public realm.
The aim is to fill thgem with businesses that complement, rather than copy, what;’s on the High Street – that could include activity hubs as well as bases for for bolt-on services such as beach accessible wheel chairs and information points for the coastal path and national cycle route.
>> £400,000 to develop “number of town centre sites.” Commercial sensitivity means no specific buildings have been pinpointed publicly.
○£400,000 to buy key buildings to enable town centre living and commercial development (non-retail) contributing to transformational change in urban fabric.
>> £350,000 to buy and refurbish vacant long-term dilapidated town centre units to enable and stimulate town centre enterprise and investment.
In total, Fife got £4.3m to spend, with Kirkcaldy claiming the single biggest share, leading to some criticism from west Fife where Dunfermline got just one project funded.
Councillor David Ross, co-leader, said “We could have spent the money ten times over in Fife.
“ It also sounds a lot of money but, in real terms, when working on town centre projects, it isn’t a great deal.
“I recognise there is disappointment from areas, but if we spread the money too thin then it would have less impact, and our clear priority is mid-Fife – it is the area that needs the most support.”
Officers now face a short timescale to get projects up and running, with anticipated quarterly reports on progress back to the Scottish Government.
“This is good news,” added Councillor Ross. “The projects will have a positive impact on our town centres.”
But Tory councillors were quick with a scathing response on how the money was to be spent in Kirkcaldy.
Councillor Richard Watt, Kirkcaldy East, said Adam Smith “would look with contempt” adding: “The home from which he wrote Wealth of Nations looks out on to a High Street where wealth is in short supply.”
A champion of de-pedestrianisation, he argued that £1.2m of the fund would have paid for the removal of parking charges for several years, during which time the High Street could be re-opened up to traffic, and unoccupied car parks sold for housing.
Councillor Kathleen Leslie questioned the allocation of £20,000 on parking signage: “Is this for the car parks that already have less than 20 per cent occupancy or the proposed new charged parking bays to be installed once they have ripped up the Esplanade?”
She said there was “absolutely no detail” on plans to buy-up dilapidated buildings, and again criticised the plans to cut the Esplanade dual carriageway to single lane .
She branded it ”a project that has no corporate buy-in” and added: “It will only manage to drive visitors further out of the town once work to turn the Esplanade into a single-carriageway begins – and let’s not forget that the west end of the Esplanade has been completely ignored by the administration.”