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Glenrothes named as Carbuncles winner

January 29 2009

Glenrothes has been named the most dismal place in Scotland in the 2009 Carbuncles Awards, beating off stiff competition from Motherwell in Lanarkshire and New Cumnock in Ayrshire.

The infamous Plook-on-the-Plinth is now destined for the Fife New Town, which was singled out for particular criticism for its depressed and investment-starved town centre.

Gordon Young, who edits Prospect and said: “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 criticising deprived areas which are dismal through no fault of their own. We believe the truly depressing places are the ones that are being stifled by a lack of attention, creativity and ambition.

“Glenrothes certainly fits these criteria. There is nothing wrong with the town itself. But the people who live there are being badly let down by its depressing town-centre, which could and should be better.

“The place is crying out for more civic space. Instead what is offered is a drab shopping mall, surrounded by depressing car parks. Inside, shoppers are subjected to a thread-bare 80s interior. The centre is busy, but this is because of a lack of competition in the region.”

The award has apparently won the support of many in the community who hope it might serve as a catalyst for much needed regeneration. Ronald Page of the Glenrothes Area Futures Group, which is made up of community councils, resident groups and local churches said: “This award coincides with the aims and objectives of the Glenrothes Area Futures Group, set up one year ago and very much supported by the people in this area, especially in terms of a quest for a new Glenrothes Town Centre Plan. We reckon Fife Council has ignored the Glenrothes area for 10-15 years.”

Prospect magazine and architecturescotland now plan to bring a conference to Glenrothes this spring, which will examine the challenges facing Scottish small town in general and Glenrothes in particular. Leading Scottish architects, including firms such as 3DReid will also put forward suggestions on how the town might be regenerated. 

Carbuncles judge Colin McColl said: “I feel that with some work Glenrothes would reignite the optimism of the original new town ideals.”

But of course as well as identifying Scotland’s most dismal town centre, the Carbuncles also featured two other categories.

A scheme to convert the former Plaza Ballroom – a much loved dance hall where every Glaswegian’s granny courted it seems – has been identified as the worst new building.

The scheme saw the incorporation of the original single story sandstone façade into an ugly block of flats. But it is overwhelmed by the new edifice which lacks any form of style or design quality.

Gordon Young said: “What were these people thinking of? They have ended up with a building that looks ridiculous. More balls-up than ballroom.”

Meanwhile Donald Trump’s scheme to build a £1billion golf resort, hotel complex and housing estate on an unspoilt patch of the Aberdeenshire coastline, famed for its towering sand dunes, was voted the Worst Planning Decision.

Gordon Young said: “We fully appreciate the economic arguments of allowing this scheme to go ahead – and we note some good architects are now on board to ensure a reasonable standard of design. However, our built environment seems to be getting increasingly influenced by purely commercial thinking. Glasgow Harbour, Leith Docks – and now this beautiful stretch of coastline – have apparently all been surrendered by public bodies to hard-nosed developers; a trend which is having a negative effect on the built environment.

“What is the point of establishing planning principles and designating areas, like the location of Trump’s development, as a Site of Special Scientific Interest if the rules are simply ripped up every time somebody gets their cheque book out?”


1) Members of the public were invited to nominate possible Carbuncles via the website.

2) This shortlist was then visited by an architecturescotland team member and a shortlist was drawn up.

3) The jury then visited the towns on this shortlist. In this process some towns were actually withdrawn from the list.

4) Members of the public were then invited to go online and vote for the final list.

5) These results were then fed back to the jury, who incorporated this feedback in order to make their final decisions.

The jury were Gordon Duffy, Architect, Studio DuB; Neil de Prez: Architect, 3DReid; Willie Miller: Urbanist, Willie Miller Urban Design; Colin McColl: Architect, McColl Architects; Chantelle Niblock. Phd Student, Glasgow School of Art; Esther Weir, Architect, CRGP and Karen Moir, Architect, RMJM.

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