12 Apr 2011
A week long ‘Lance the Boil’ exhibition, sponsored by Urban Realm, outlining alternative visions for the Stirlingshire town of Denny has concluded with the showcase of our readers proposals to nearly a hundred locals over a four day marathon. The event afforded locals a chance to get up close and personal with some very different perspectives of what Denny could (and should) be and for UR to obtain valuable feedback on which scheme had the best prospect of kick-starting a £15m regeneration plan that has been on hold since early 2010.Driving the process however was a desire on Urban Realm’s part to solicit opinion directly from locals and, as always, Denny residents weren’t shy at expressing their opinions directly with years of pent up frustrations unleashed on our feedback forms. Perhaps seduced by a virtual reality model of the town centre, which gave locals a dizzying bird’s eye perspective of familiar landmarks, a general consensus of support was found to favour the Blue Nile scheme which emerged as winner after wowing participants including D. Lamont through its “mix of properties with pitched roofs.”
Wayne Hemingway, honorary judge of the competition, said of the event: “Councils have to aspire to make their towns liveable for all levels of society and to provide a decent quality of built environment for their citizens. Carbuncles, such as the Denny blocks should have no place in modern society, they were a mistake and need to be dealt with if the most vulnerable are to improve their life chances and have a ‘happier’ place to live." Of the six very different proposals one stood apart in the eyes of most, amongst them Hemingway, who averred of Blue Nile Associates back to the future style approach: “Putting a traditional High Street pattern back in seems a decent healing process.“
This “traditional solution” also appealed to Gordon Jack who singled out the community areas for praise but warned: “We must have residential ownership to 'police' such areas.” Harry Cameron on the other hand welcomed the mixture of commercial, residential & community development, particularly the inclusion of a library and civic centre as a community focal point, an opinion shared by Kathleen McCormick who observed that the scheme “reflects the ambience” of the old town centre. In this an echo was heard from Anne Grant who lauded the residential; civic & community square, adding that the architecture on both sides of the Main St looked similar in the plans for the first time since the sixties with the dreaded flat roofs, a recurring bone of contention among attendees, consigned to the dustbin. Grant liked the new found equilibrium in both sides of the street and the absence of raised levels as found in the original buildings. “Tax paying residents still have to fight to try and get a reasonable, liveable town centre that is not an embarrassment to the residents,” Grant noted.
Kathleen McCormick said of Blue Nile: “The residential and civic plans reflect the ambience of the old town centre and is in keeping with the Stirling Street shops,” adding “It is a disgrace that the town centre has been allowed to fall into such disrepair and I feel that money has been wasted again and again on ‘patching’ things up. I noted that there has been recent plasterwork done to the flats, again a waste of my money as a taxpayer.”
Unsurprisingly it was the existing dilapidated Church Walk blocks, source of Denny’s present travails, which drew the greatest ire with W. Cooper pleading: “Take the blocks away as soon as possible.” William Smith also railed: “I'd like to see the blocks knocked down and a start made as soon as possible.” Many shared the no nonsense mentality of a frustrated Ina Lynch who blasted: “After waiting 15 years, I want the blocks pulled down straight away.” A. McCombe cut to the chase with a difficult to contest declaration: “Almost any proposal would be better than the disgusting town centre we have at the moment!” G Jack jumped at the chance to talk down the eyesore flats “There are many people who would like to see the development start with the flats coming down ASAP. Even that would make a difference in the short term.”
In more general terms Irina Hanson wished for “a selection of smaller shops in the town. Her comments followed up by Mr Owen Grant who charged: “What a waste of money re-roughcasting the blocks. How long does this mean they will stay up?” Gordon Herd spoke for many when he said: “The people of Denny deserve a better town centre rather than the terrible eyesore at present.” It was Denny Eastern Access Road which vexed M.J. Corbushley the most however, he shouted: “D.E.A.R. IS A MUST!” The prospect of a new supermarket in town singularly failed to inspire many shoppers, amongst them Marie Connelly who remarked upon the dismal prospect: “I don't like the idea of a supermarket or flats over a shop.” Margaret Thomson was a little more receptive to the idea of a budget grocery store but was worried about the traffic implications saying: “I don't want a supermarket opposite St Alexander’s main entrance”.
Many respondents had a rather conservative take on what their town ought to be with A.C. MacLellan taking a dislike to Alan Dunlop’s brash proposal, deeming it “too elaborate” for Denny but Andrew McKenna countered: “I like the idea of reclaiming Stirling Street. I want some real, solid discussion from the Council on the way forward for Denny.” Kathleen McCormick chimed with MacLellan however, stating: “I feel that it is too modern and not in keeping with the other side of the town. It could have the potential to become like Church Walk in the future.” Commenting on another competing scheme Douglas Paterson chipped in: “I like 3DReid's idea to increase public space, the wide High Street concept is very appealing.”
With an eye to the practicalities G Jack said: “Community areas must have residential presence to ‘police’ the area outside of daylight or shopping hours. The supermarket should incorporate an underground car park – shelter for shoppers in our present climate and should be secured out of hours. A pedestrianised Stirling Street is fine but the Eastern Relief Road needs to be built first. At present Stirling Street and Davies ‘Rat’ Row cannot cope with traffic flow”, noted Jack, who shuddered at the consequences of doing away with either one. Jack continued: “Residential ownership of the town will help lower both crime and vandalism. The key focus of the design should be maintaining different and not to turn it into a ‘New Town’. Coming from Cumbernauld I have seen the impact this has had. Visions 40 years ago have not had any longevity and Cumbernauld is now focussed around two large retailers.”
Another participant, Carol Davie, said: “I’d like to maintain the old style of centre including traditional shop fronts, what is essentially modern and fashionable now won’t be in 20 years. My concern is a largish retail venture will close the small retailers, taking away the heart of the community. The planned Tesco build in Camelon should also be considered. Is there then the need for the same here?”
Those schemes which routed traffic down Davies Row, away from the main Stirling Road artery, weren’t favoured by some however with Roy Bogle opining: “I'd like to retain Stirling Street as the main thoroughfare before pointing out that “more trees and greenery” would benefit any solution. Dorothy Hall chimed: “The traffic lights are a nightmare; I dislike the idea of traffic going along Duke Street and turning down Davies Row.” This opinion found parallel in the words of Sinead McCabe who spoke out in favour of any of the proposals, “providing they don't take traffic down Davies Row”. McCabe wryly explained: “Traffic in Denny is a joke at the minute; we have more congestion than New York!”
Roy Bogat said: “I would like to retain Stirling Street as the main thoroughfare through the town without diverting traffic along Duke Street or Davies Row. This meets the requirements of existing retailers. Ensure the central part of the ‘new’ area of the town has a ‘plaza’ feel and won’t just be a large car park to the supermarket. Adopt the Urban Realm Blue Nile idea of linking the Broompark Community Centre to the central area of the town centre, with Davies Row remaining a minor road with traffic calming, such that anyone using the supermarket, retail outlets or library will be centrally linked to a community centre which equally is an integral part of the town centre.
“The corner of the supermarket at Stirling Street/Davies Row has a ‘softened’ curved edge which will be illuminated such that when entering the town from Dunipace, the aesthetics of the supermarket are as appealing whether seen from the front or rear. Ensure that the rear is landscaped. Consider a lift if the supermarket is of a height due to the topography of the land at this end of town. Trees, trees, trees and more trees to ensure some greenery in the town to take away the concrete jungle feel which Denny currently has.”
The event proved to be somewhat timely, coinciding with the unveiling of a £170k repair programme on the series of dilapidated 1960s blocks at the hearty of the town centre and at the heart of the problem. The pink and jaundice hulks have now assumed a sickly yellow pallor that left observers feeling more queasy than usual after officials from Falkirk Council instructed repair work to be carried out in order to combat problems with “water penetration”.
One aghast onlooker, campaigner Brian McCabe, said: “The community are extremely proud of their town and detest the idea that it is being sidelined by a Falkirk-centric council administration. The latest manifestation of ‘repairs’ has infuriated many. We have tried as a local community to have Falkirk Council actually listen and take on board the views of the inhabitants of the town. As yet, all of those efforts, such as the exhibition of the alternative plans, have fallen on deaf ears.”
With the competition at an end Falkirk Council stated that they would “accelerate” redevelopment plans for the eyesore blocks; a promise which will see plans to enforce compulsory purchase orders on remaining properties brought forward. In the interim period Urban Realm will present our own findings to Falkirk Council for their consideration.
Paul Stallan, RMJM
Blue Nile Associates