Kirkcaldy’s town centre woes epitomise the struggles of Fife’s town centres as they face the challengeof adapting to thrive and survive.
Big names continue to disappear from Kirkcaldy High Street, with the likes of Next and Semichem due to close soon.
Kirkcaldy used to have five specialist tailors to choose from if you wanted a new suit. And the pubs and nightclubs were open and busy on Thursdays right through to Sunday nights.
While quirky businesses can often be seen springing up in the High Street, many don’t last long. Whether it’s rates, lack of footfall, lack of interest or all three, it’s a hard sector in which to survive.
Parking has also been a bugbear for many visitors to Kirkcaldy and the fact the cut price parking trial has had to come to an end will not help matters.
Tesco disappeared from the town centre area a few years back and, as the anchor for The Postings, it’s fair to say a stroll through that particular shopping mall is a grim experience nowadays, with no disrespect meant to the businesses doing well among the swathes of soulless empty units.
Out-of-town retail parks have also taken a deadly toll across the country – again, Kirkcaldy has suffered.
The array of offerings at the Fife Central Retail Park often negates the need to go into the town centre, and long-held fears such developments will help kill town centres rather than complement them are being realised.
Throw in the convenience of online shopping and you wonder how places like Kirkcaldy can ever reverse the slide.
There is a glimmer of light from the leisure sector however. The cinema and retail complex proposed for the site of the old swimming pool must happen.
If the promised complex is created, it can breathe the life into the town and complement ongoing the efforts to bring people into the town centre, such as Christmas markets and other one-off events – quick hits which provide a base from which to work.
Cinemas, restaurants, pubs and gyms anchor retail parks and can have the same effect on a high street if created correctly.
It won’t be a silver bullet, but could be the shot in the arm needed to arrest the current slump.