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Small Project

Old Bodycare unit

This unit is a typical example of smaller, empty retail units that are seen in high streets throughout the United Kingdom.  This particular unit has lain empty for many years, but offers an opportunity to demonstrate how they can be refurbished to meet the demands of modern, independent businesses. This small-scale project re-imagines the design of a single retail unit to provide new small scale start up spaces. This allows flexibility in letting and an affordable approach to business rates (see sidebar). 

 

Just as important, this project can bring new life to Barnetʼs Vennel and improve the routes connecting the High Street to the seafront.  When retail units lie vacant for a long period of time, it also affects the surrounding environment.  Constructing windows into the side of the unit not only provides daylight into the small workspaces, but also transforms the Vennel into a more engaging and interesting space.  

Non-Domestic Rates (NDR)

Throughout our consultation, we found a common misconception that Fife Council set business rates, properly known as non-domestic rates.  NDR is actually set by the Scottish Government across Scotland, and the valuations are established by Assessors, who are independent of local councils.

The Vision

Kirkcaldy Town Centre has seen a rise of independent traders opening shops, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.  They tend to populate the periphery of the High Street (West End, Merchants Quarter, Hunter Street and Kirk Wynd) as the units are smaller with cheaper rents and rateable values.  They are less likely to occupy the larger units that are found in the pedestrianised area, because they are too large for a start-up business, and even the smaller units will attract higher rates because of their location and size of building. 

 

If we want to see more local independents, we need to look at how we take the larger buildings and sub-divide them into smaller units to encourage more businesses to move into the main part of the High Street, thus reducing the amount of empty shops, which usually have unsightly, dilapidated facades.

 

For this particular project, the idea here is to sub-divide a centrally located single into even smaller spaces that will create incubator spaces for people who may want to start a High Street business, but may feel daunted at the prospect.  The incubator units would be flexible in how they could be used – small retail, artisan shop, beautician, makers space – or small office for a one- or two-person business.  

The lease would be flexible, perhaps commitment to a few months initially and then on a monthly basis. This kind of approach would allow tenants to focus on their core business without worrying too much about investing large sums of money over a long period of time and then losing it all if it doesn’t work out.  

Love Oor Lang Toun are currently looking at occupying this unit in 2024.  This would provide them with a High Street presence that would enable them to continue engagement with businesses and local people on the future of Kirkcaldy Town Centre.  LOLT would also discuss with Business Gateway and Fife Council’s Economic Development Unit on how we could provide an advice and support service to fledgling businesses, not only in this unit but across the Town Centre.  

 

The following year would hopefully see work being done on the unit according to the architect’s ideas in the concept drawings.  What is particularly appealing about this project is not only the prospect of the incubator units, but also the idea of building windows into Barnet’s Vennel, which would make it a far more attractive route to the Leisure Centre and the Waterfront.  It would also improve the look of the High Street in this area.  

 

The final outcome would be an occupied unit and appealing vennel that would raise activity in this area.  It would also provide an exemplar of how units can be repurposed to encourage new business, and also provide them with some support as they develop.  They could then take the decision to stay where they are, or move on to a larger unit elsewhere if their business needs to grow.

Proposals for this project

This unit is currently owned by Fife Council, and the initial proposal is to use it as a base and town centre presence for Love Oor Lang Toun.  Fife Council are looking to eventually implement the full plans drawn up by the architect, and the possibility of LOLT operating the venture to encourage new, independent start-ups.

The smaller units can be used as maker’s workshops, artisan spaces, retail or small business.  Flexibility is a key component or providing new spaces in town centres.

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Consultation responses to this project

What local people said

"

  • More support for creative industries

  • Improve the physical appeal of the town centre

  • Create better links between the town centre and the waterfront

"

Ratings for this project

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(4.4/5)

Sentiment value for this project

(Sentiment Value measures the positivity of overall comments, where -3 is most negative and +3 is most positive)

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(1.1)

Some of the comments from the public

"Great way to liven up an easily missed through space! Would need to be affordable to encourage early-career artists, new business start ups, etc. and give them a chance of thriving."

 

"Aye, sounds good. Maybe some bench seating which doesn't effect the space for foot flow too much ...but offers long benches against one of the sides, with art work to look at on the opposite bare walls and generally a space to eat my lunch from the market not next to a big bin or two down the vennel as it is currently and where I end up standing if it starts to rain."

 

"Its a good way to attract new businesses who cant afford rates."

Next:  Medium Project

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