Inverkeithing's Mercat Cross to be conserved and moved

This article is more than 3 years old

Photograph of Mercat crossWork is continuing behind the scenes on Inverkeithing’s Heritage Regeneration Project despite the current lockdown. A major step forward has been made in improving the streetscape. Plans to conserve and move the Mercat Cross into the heart of the town were granted planning and listed building consent in April.

The heritage focus of the project will help reinforce the town’s historical identity and develop its visitor potential. Inverkeithing’s Mercat Cross is one of the oldest in Scotland. The main column and coats of arms are believed to date from 1398. It will be restored and moved from Bank Street into a more prominent position in the Market Square.

Working with local schools, a time capsule will be created and buried beneath this symbol of the town’s heritage as part of the project’s packed Activity Programme.

Emma Griffiths, Project Training and Development Officer said  “Local primary pupils are lucky with their town’s amazing heritage, and are already really excited about making their own history to go into the time capsule”

This and the rest of the planned public realm uplift is part of a five-year programme of heritage themed investment in the town, 2019-2024. Generous awards from the National Lottery Heritage Fund Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS), along with Fife Council money and other funding, make up the ring-fenced regeneration package of £3.6 million.

The public realm improvements will account for £1.3 million of this and includes the streetscape surfaces (roads and footways), new seating, street furniture and heritage features. A first phase of work around the Civic Centre, due to be undertaken this summer, has been delayed by the lockdown, but the main phase of public realm uplift focussed on the Market Square, is hopefully still on track to start on site in Summer 2021.

The improvements will make the area more pedestrian and cycle friendly, whilst retaining the current number of car parking spaces through sensitive design. Good quality streetscape materials will enhance the setting of the many listed buildings. The design concepts have taken onboard input from local people at various consultation events in recent years. There will be further opportunity for people to have their say in June and July, once more detailed layouts have been drawn up, and COVID-19 restrictions have eased. 

Councillor Alice McGarry, Area Convenor for the South and West Fife Area Committee said  “The National Lottery and CARS funding will enable major streetscape uplift in the High street and the Market Square, whilst at the same time protecting and enhancing our built heritage. Like many towns today, Inverkeithing has had to contend with a range of negative market forces, like changing shopping habits, likely made worse by the COVIDS-19 crisis. To be resilient the town needs to evolve and improve its offer to attract both locals and visitors. The town’s heritage and history is underplayed, but given its location on the Fife Coastal Path and Pilgrims Way, proximity to the Forth Bridges and Edinburgh, and its major transport links, Inverkeithing has the potential for step change through heritage led regeneration, and these improvements can help that to happen.”

Whilst the public realm works are led by the Council, the entire heritage programme is being delivered by Fife Historic Buildings Trust, on behalf of Fife Council.

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