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January 27 2009

Carbuncles shortlist announced
Motherwell, Glenrothes and New Cummnock have emerged as the front-runners in this year’s Carbuncle Awards, the prize that identifies Scotland’s most dismal town.
Members of the public are now invited to log on to www.thecarbuncles.co.uk to help decide where the trophy – dubbed the Plook-on-the-Plinth - ultimately goes.

In all, 10 towns were featured on a long-list of potential recipients after an initial round of online voting. Pre-judging cut this to a shortlist of three towns which were then visited by our panel of experts.

Explained Gordon Young, editor of Prospect magazine and www.architecturescotland.co.uk, which runs the Carbuncles: “A primary criteria of the Carbuncles is that the towns shortlisted must have real potential, which local leaders for one reason or another are failing to exploit.
“We are not interested in simply criticising deprived areas which are dismal through no fault of their own. We believe the truly depressing places are the ones which could be great, but are stifled by a lack of imagination, creativity and passion.”

The three towns visited were obviously wrestling with a wide variety of issues:

New Cummnock exuded a sense that it has simply been abandoned by its local authority. Despite having excellent rail links, being sited in one of the most scenic parts of Scotland, having a range of facilities including Scotland’s last open air pool and great heritage including links to Robert Burns, its population has halved in recent years. A programme of demolishing housing nobody apparently wants is now underway and the main street is beginning to resemble a ghost town.
“One senses that only the valiant efforts of a few members of the local community are preventing this town’s total collapse,” said Gordon Young.

Motherwell still retains a busy and vibrant town centre. But there is a real sense that little or no investment is going into its upkeep. It is also undermined by a series of bad planning decisions.  For example, one side of its main street is dominated by a two storey complex in a 60s brutalist style. However, the other side has a one storey complex in a bland circa 80s style, which gives the whole environment a lopsided feel.
Said Gordon Young, “However, the main concerns about Motherwell was really to do with some of the things which are happening now. Bland housing estates are going up near the town centre which will interfere with the natural rhythm of the place and perhaps threaten the town’s future development. It feels like somebody has simply dropped Motherwell! It has some nice fragments, but lacks logic in terms of how the whole thing fits together. The residents are being badly let down.”

Glenrothes is a classic Scottish New Town. However, the judges felt that unlike New Towns such as East Kilbride and even Cumbernauld, it has failed to move with the times.  It is dominated by the vast Kingdom Centre which also serves as the town centre. From the outside it is an ugly and depressing complex which inspires little civic pride. Inside it feels like an 80s timewarp.
Said Gordon Young, “The real failing with this town centre is the lack of civic space. The whole thing is internalised. It is really just a big mall. But with a little investment it could be so much more.
“However, the shops are busy. But the judges felt this was more down to a lack of competition in the region which explains a sense that the Kingdom complex perhaps does not need to try too hard in terms of attracting local trade.
“One almost gets the feeling that perhaps Historic Scotland should give this place a listing, as an example of how poor shopping centres used to be.”

The point of the Carbuncles is to examine where planners, policy makers and architects have failed, so similar mistakes can be prevented in the future. With this in mind Prospect and www.architecturescotland.co.uk will organise a conference this Spring where those involved in the building design process will be given a chance to debate specific challenges faced by the liked of New Cummnock, Mortherwell and Glenrothes. In additions architects and planners will put forward suggestions on how these communities might be better served.
Carbuncles shortlist announced
Carbuncles shortlist announced

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