The next two towns nominated for the Carbuncles were "company" towns: Lochgelly was a mining town and Denny was a mill town.  The last deep pit in the Fife coalfield shut over two decades ago, but the death of the massive Carrongrove papermill at Denny was comparatively recent, when Inveresk Paper teetered on the brink of failure.  These timelines make an interesting contrast: how long does it take to regenerate a town once its major employer leaves?

We visited both towns on a typical Scots July day.  The light smirr of rain in Glasgow transformed into torrential rain once on the M8 motorway, and although it eased before Lochgelly, the curtain of Fife drizzle soaked into clothes, cameras and folks’ spirits.  The question for the Fife town is whether earlier regeneration efforts have been successful; a couple of handsome tenements have been rejuvenated, the former Miner’s Institute has been revitalised, and the inevitable public realm improvements to the centre of town have created a small public square with a token of public art. 

Arguably the money would have been better spent immediately on improving the town’s former former civic centre, or its former cinema, with an Art Deco tower and large auditorium currently lying empty.  The little square lies at the hinge of the High Street yet offers nothing other than domestic scale bounding walls and a couple of seats.  Despite the expensive paving and International Socialist-style sculpture, it’s a recessive, negative space which might have been better served by building (or retaining?) a major building here, to assert itself as a piece of townscape.  As it is, the Kingdom Housing Association is building a new block to house business starter units just a couple of doors down – so there is economic activity, and despite the dreich weather, the streets were busy.

Lochgelly has a “carbuncle” building close to its heart, the old civic centre, or “Lochgelly Centre”.  The demolition man’s signage, huts and Heras fence surround it now, and its death is imminent.  When it was built; not in the 1950’s, not in the 1960’s, but in 1976, things weren’t so different to today.  There is still a need for a cohesive social centre to the community, and the functions this relatively young building housed – arts, leisure, entertainment – still need a home.  You wonder whether anyone considered adapting, rehabilitating, modernising, applying a new skin with better performance?  Demolishing it for the sake of the look of things is a waste, especially in a community without its own cinema, comprehensive sports facilities, or a community hall of a scale to accommodate the whole community.

What’s also sad is that nothing in the town centre marks the passing of the Ore Valley’s fortune.  Before nationalisation in 1948, the Fife Coal Company had some of the most ambitious pit modernisation plans in Europe.  Many of the big steps forward in coal mining, using automatic coal cutters, hydraulic props and armoured conveyors were pioneered in this part of Scotland.  Perhaps the town has turned its back on the coal industry, due to the back-breaking work and inherent dangers, and incomers don’t realise the place’s qualities.  Andres Duany apparently thought Lochgelly had ample greenbelt land on its outskirts – “This is the most developed part of Scotland and look at the amount of green land… you’re not running out” – but that completely misses the point of the urgent need to regenerate its town centre.  Mining towns still retain Victorian buildings of real quality, such as the Miner’s Institute or the Lochgelly Co-operative, and to condemn a community to a future of yet more peripheral estates with one dismissive aside shows poor faith in the Scots’ ability to regenerate the centres of our own towns.

It feels like money has been spent in Lochgelly, but on the wrong things – such as the public square, the demolition of the civic centre, and also the charette which Duany participated in, offering housebuilders a "get-out" to develop on the outskirts – when civic facilities should have been provided or upgraded instead, to increase the critical mass of the town centre.


This entry was posted by and is filed under Uncategorized.
By • Galleries: Uncategorized

No feedback yet