Kirkcaldy’s former BHS store is to be transformed into a temporary job centre.
The shop, which occupies a prime High Street spot, has lain empty for five years.
But now it will form part of the UK Government’s plans to get more people into work and kick-start the economy.
The Department of Work and Pensions acquired the 35,000 square feet unit at the start of October.
And Fife Council has already granted planning permission for the employment centre at the rear of the building.
No opening date has been revealed but building work to convert the space is expected to begin soon.
It will be one of 80 temporary job centres to open across the UK to support people affected by the Covid pandemic.
One is already operating at Dundee’s West Marketgait.
Kirkcaldy BHS building works needed
The move will breathe new life into one of Kirkcaldy’s biggest empty retail units.
BHS closed in 2016 with the loss of around 30 jobs and has since fallen into disrepair.
Vegetation is growing on the roof and some of the windows are damaged.
Minister for employment Mims Davies said: “Naturally, there is still detailed planning work to do and there is a schedule of building works required to convert the space to suit the needs of our customers.
“We are aiming to make the site operationally viable as soon as possible.”
The new High Street centre, in the middle of the pedestrianised zone, will operate an appointment-only system.
And it will be manned by work coaches and private security staff.
Ensuring staff and claimants are safe
The UK Government has hired some 13,500 work coaches nationally.
Ms Davies added: “As a result of the scale in demand for our services, the recruitment already undertaken of work coaches and the need to accommodate these and our existing staff safely means there is a requirement for the DWP to expand its estates capacity on a temporary basis.
“Existing DWP premises do not currently allow us to accommodate and make these adjustments safely and ensuring our staff and claimants are safe is vital to the department.”
The centre will operate in addition to the Job Centre on Hunter Street and will remain as long as it’s needed.
Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSP Alex Rowley welcomed the help to get people back to work.
But he said more must be done to enable people to gain the skills they need.
“Simply forcing people to appointments at job centres isn’t enough,” he said.
“Everybody should have the opportunity but we won’t do that by stick alone.
“We need joined-up government at every level and proper funding of organisations that provide the type of support needed.”
Kirkcaldy High Street
Kirkcaldy High Street has suffered more than most from the downturn in the economy in the last few years.
However, the former BHS store is the latest of several town centre buildings to be repurposed.
And the former Debenhams unit is reopening this week as Fife Department Store.
Meanwhile, the building once occupied by Dorothy Perkins and Burtons is being refitted as a pub.
And several other smaller units are also now filled.