Newsletter - Links - Advertise - Contact Us - Privacy

Denny emerges as latest Carbuncle contender

March 5 2010

Denny emerges as latest Carbuncle contender
Denny has emerged as the latest Carbuncle contender amidst news that £11m plans to regenerate the town centre have stalled.

Henry Boot PLC and Keppie Design had proposed to redevelop a series of three decaying multi storey slab blocks along the town’s high street.

The putrid yellow and pink monstrosities lie shuttered and derelict, ensnared in netting to catch falling masonry.

Work on the key site has been pending since 2004 and as yet the developer has no idea when work will start stating that this will not occur before viable market conditions return.

Local residents are up in arms at the prospect of further delays and are to stage a “walk around the block” protest rally on March 20.

Residents fear they could be waiting up to 15 years for action to be taken on the mothballed site.


john mc nally
#1 Posted by john mc nally on 31 Mar 2010 at 17:13 PM
As a local councillor who was looking forward to this sixties monstrosity being demolished i now find myself being in the situation as now being out of administration battering my head against a brick wall to get this project started.
The present administrations inertia on this carbuncle is stultifying where they voted AGAINST seeking out a plan B.
#2 Posted by Realist on 31 Mar 2010 at 17:39 PM
hundreds unemployed, hundreds want council houses, kids in overcrowded schools, roads full of holes..dont worry about them, lets make life easier for business..sounds like a tory this councillor john mc nally
Paul Keenan
#3 Posted by Paul Keenan on 31 Mar 2010 at 17:43 PM
John Mcnally? A Tory? Get your facts right...the guy trys to do his best for the people of our town...
Elizabeth Kane
#4 Posted by Elizabeth Kane on 31 Mar 2010 at 18:00 PM
Totally agree with you Paul, one Councillor who actually cares about Denny and it's people.
Cllr Craig Martin
#5 Posted by Cllr Craig Martin on 1 Apr 2010 at 11:43 AM
It is sad that this website has published a story about Denny without providing the full facts for readers. As leader of the Council I feel it is important to clarify things.

Falkirk Council is committed to regenerating Denny. We also DON'T own all the blocks in Church Walk - but are very keen to see these demolished and replaced with a revitalised town centre. Therefore we can’t step in tomorrow and start bulldozing the site.

However we’re doing all we can to progress the regeneration of Denny and looking at options to accelerate this progress – but in a legal way. (We also want to protect the jobs of people who work in the problem blocks.)

We are also concerned at scare stories – which may be politically motivated – talking of 15 year delays.

Please be assured that we are making strenuous efforts to progress this critical project. However, as things currently stand, the scheme faces fundamental constraints to its delivery from the original masterplan, presented in 2006.

(It’s interesting that this was agreeable to Mr McNally, quoted above, and his SNP colleagues when they were running the Council). The economy, of course, is very different today and we are experiencing challenges not just in Denny, but in all our communities.

As a result of this it is simply not possible to proceed immediately with the regeneration scheme as currently planned for the following reasons:-

* The Council has entered into a legal agreement with Henry Boot for delivery of the scheme. Were we to withdraw from this legal agreement we would require to meet Henry Boot’s costs to date, which have been considerable.

* Commencement of the scheme on site demands an upfront commitment to acquire the various interests and to demolish the properties. There would also be a need to find accommodation for the existing businesses (and their employees) that wish to continue trading in the area. Under the terms of the current scheme, it is anticipated that these costs could be considerable - in excess of £2m.

* Were the Council to try to proceed on its own, the Council’s Capital programme, which funds its major projects would need to be radically reviewed. Whilst this is being given consideration it cannot be done lightly as it would have an important impact on a severely stretched programme.

* Were the Council to withdraw from its legal agreement with Henry Boot and seek an alternative developer, it would require conducting a procurement exercise. In view of the capital costs involved this must be undertaken in accordance with European legislation and its timescales (usually around 6 – 9 months). However there is no guarantee at the end of that process that an alternative developer would be found, (as occurred in market testing of the original scheme).

* Were a new scheme to come forward it would also need to secure planning consent (involving further consultation and design support). Again this would be likely to add significantly to the timescales for delivery.

It is for these reasons that the Council’s opinion has been that the readiest means of progressing the scheme is to work within our legal agreement with Henry Boot, as a “Plan B” would be likely to delay regeneration even further. This scheme has been developed with intensive consultation and consensus of the Denny community, gained over a period of four years. Our approach to its delivery has been carefully considered, involving the
completion of the procurement, preparing designs and determining the logistics of delivering the scheme while safeguarding the interests of local business and the community.

Working closely with Henry Boot we have been progressing the scheme with actions that are necessary regardless of current market circumstances and fully recognise the community’s concerns:-

* An application for outline planning permission for the scheme has been submitted.

* We have started the process of seeking agreement with current occupants to acquire the various properties including two recent acquisitions made using the Town Centre Regeneration Fund. It must be stressed that should some acquisitions fail, there may be a need to proceed to compulsory purchase which can add considerably to the time delay in implementing the scheme (a recent CPO in Stenhousemuir took 2 years to complete).

* We have commissioned the traffic light improvement works at Denny Cross (commencing early May). These will be necessary for the town centre scheme and are being provided at an earlier stage than envisaged, with the costs met by the Town Centre Regeneration grant.

I must emphasise that the works relating to the Town Centre Regeneration Fund were designed to comply with the terms of the grant and the reduced amount that was awarded to the Council. They are important to the scheme’s delivery and will help to accelerate the scheme, regardless of how it moves forward. “
I have emailed the main contact to suggest a meeting with a few of your colleagues from the community to consider these matters more fully and suggest that meeting as quickly as possible.

We will also continue to keep the community advised of progress via the Town Centre Development Group (which meets regularly and involves representatives of the local community, elected members, retailers, Henry Boot and Council officials). At important stages in the scheme in the past we have issued Newsletters to all households and I am happy to do so again when there is a substantive announcement to be made.

In the meantime we shall continue to place updates on the website and will provide appropriate information at Denny Library. In that regard may I add that library service will accept letters on its notice board. Our Libraries are unable to perform the function of receiving correspondence for local groups – we are happy to convey information via the Library.

I realise that this does not meet the immediate and pressing demands of the Denny community to see the blocks at Church Walk demolished. However I can give an assurance that we are doing all in our power to move these proposals forward and that we are keen to work with all residents of Denny and Dunipace to see a successful scheme delivered.

It might be politically expedient to go for a quick fix and make promises we couldn’t keep. We’d rather work with the local community to get a solution that delivers for the people in Denny.

My door is open to always meet with community representatives to hear their ideas and comments.

Leader, Falkirk Council
John Glenday
#6 Posted by John Glenday on 1 Apr 2010 at 14:06 PM
Craig - Many thanks for providing additional background to this story. I hope to see the site for myself at some point.
Brian W. McCabe
#7 Posted by Brian W. McCabe on 3 Apr 2010 at 12:47 PM
It is particularly sad when we now have Councillor Martin posting what he alludes to as facts to clarify the position, as if these are the only facts, when he knows full well that we, the community, have already addressed all of the points he raised in his letter posted above.

For the sake of clarity & transparency and to avoid that 'political' spin Craig mentions and then engages in, let me attach the community's response to his letter.

I do not disagree that the Council may now be more focussed on the problems facing Denny
Town Centre’s renewal, a result I’d suggest more of the recent demonstration of public malcontent rather than Falkirk Council’s original stance. I also concur that the scheme faces constraints, however these are not insurmountable and only require a focussing of minds and a political willingness on the
Council’s part. Current constraints whether global or UK wide cannot be allowed to impact on a project which had a conception in June of 1996 when the Local Plan for Denny & District was adopted.
Recognising these difficulties, it is not our desire that the regeneration scheme as currently
planned is enacted, but rather alternative options are proposed and commenced forthwith.
In answering your letter, I will refer to the specific bullet points you raised and comment as
· Recognising Council’s arrangement with Henry Boot, precisely what costs are envisaged
to withdraw from the agreement? Current costs to maintain the eyesore blocks run annually at approx.
£163k which could be used to offset any liability to Henry Boot.
· Site commencement you state is entirely dependent on an “upfront commitment to acquire various interests.” To quote from Minute of Meeting, Denny Development Group, 3 February 2010 -
“Colin Frame confirmed that Henry Boot will not acquire any interests in the town centre until the
project is considered viable and detailed planning is in place.” This gives as clear an indication that there is no planned acceleration of the project until May 2011 at the earliest, when Henry Boot are ‘expected’ to reach the milestone of submitting a detailed planning application. (Incidentally, any figures or quotations used are directly taken from Falkirk Council documents.)
Accomodation for existing businesses is achievable utilising the existing capacity of the empty blocks on a temporary basis. Current occupancy of the retail units within Church Walk can be no more than 60% at a vastly reduced rateable value.
If, as you state, costs in excess of £2m are anticipated under the current scheme, this is yet a further indication that the Henry Boot scheme is fatally flawed.
· Nothing other than a serious review of Council’s Capital programme is expected. For far
too long Denny and Dunipace have suffered at the hands of an iniquitous administration more focussed on a Central bias. The old adage ‘Nothing West of the 3 Bridges’ applies most succinctly.
It is recognised by this community that this strategy would place strain on a ‘... severely stretched programme’. Just do it. It only addresses a disgraceful historical background of previous neglect.
· Withdrawing from the Henry Boot arrangement and any resultant procurement exercise is an option which must be considered. The community of Denny & Dunipace have neither counted Henry Boot in, nor have they counted them out. They only ask transparency.
· The much vaunted planning issues are a side show.
Let me relate a story. On the 17th October 1989, a massive earthquake devastated the city of San Francisco and much of it’s arterial freeway infra-structure. Best guesstimates as to how long it would take the city to recover and replace it’s freeways were variously put at anything between 6-18 months, given the typical planning application restraints. The City of San Francisco formed a full department of
Planning Officers and Building Code Officers whose sole purpose was to push through the repair of those damaged freeways. Within 6 weeks ALL major freeways were fully reconstructed and open to traffic. 6 weeks! There’s an indication of political willingness. What’s to prevent a similar event occuring
here? Only one thing. Desire.
To return to the Henry Boot scheme. Henry Boot were approved as ‘preferred developer’ on
15th November 2005. It’s now April 2010 and Henry Boot have only applied for outline planning approval. Why? What takes so long? Where’s acceleration here? There is none.
Once again I have to advise that the people of Denny disagree with Council’s opinion regarding
the Henry Boot agreement. Fundamentally? There is no indication of timescale. You must remember that at the recent Public Meeting of 22nd February, time after time, councillors and officers of Falkirk Council were pressed for a commencement date.
1 year? “We don’t know. It’s not economically viable right now.” Henry Boot.
5 years? “We don’t know. We don’t have a crystal ball.” Colin Frame.
10 years? “We don’t know when it will become viable. We don’t have a crystal ball.” Douglas Duff.
15 years? “We don’t have a crystal ball. We just don’t know.” Councillor Alex Waddell.
I don’t disagree that the scheme has been developed over a period of four years. I do dispute that the consensus of opinion is favourable.
Colin Frame quoted some 87(?) responses to a questionnaire within the local library which he stated as favourable and supportive. You personally have recieved a letter with just under 1,000 co-signatories who are quite clearly not in favour of the current scheme. (This has more to do with previous community apathy than any measures followed by Falkirk Council.) Hopefully we have adequately demonstrated a move away from apathy to a strong local interest.
· The application for outline planning permission has taken over 4 years to appear. Why? Is
this not more to do with Henry Boot keeping ‘onside’, than having any intention to progress actual development?
· Property acquisitions under the additional Scottish Government funds of the Town Centre
Regeneration Fund will be re-imbursed from the Henry Boot agreement, I assume?
(I am personally aware of the 2 year hiatus for the Stenhousemuir CPO to process.)
A further question comes to mind following Colin Frame’s statement at the Denny Development Group meeting, “Colin Frame confirmed that Henry Boot will not acquire any interests in the town centre until the project is considered viable and detailed planning is in place.” In these constrained financial times, why, for heaven’s sake, are Henry Boot not avariciously pursuing the acquisition of
properties when they are their lowest commercial value, and instead will wait until property values return to ‘viable’ economic levels? Remember, these properties are part of a regeneration package which is definitely going ahead. It is, isn’t it?
Once again I see no indication of Henry Boot’s commitment to the commencement of redevelopment works, merely their minimum compliance with an agreement to prevent penalties on their behalf.
Which begs the question, what are the cost implications for Henry Boot’s withdrawal from the project?
Further, what are the cost implications of Henry Boot’s non-compliance with any ‘milestone’ within the agreement?
· Traffic light improvement works are being funded through the Town Centre Regeneration
Fund, a totally separate revenue stream from any funds set aside for the Town Centre regeneration.
Just exactly what Capital sums have been set aside by Falkirk Council for the regeneration package?
I assume that the traffic light improvement works were previously included in the overall budget? This sum will now be ‘ring-fenced’ in Denny’s capital expenditure?
I understand your description of the Town Centre Regeneration Funding in essence complying with the terms of the grant. However this is not strictly true, is it? You state, “We have commissioned the traffic light improvement works at Denny Cross (commencing early May).” Quite clearly this fails
to meet the Scottish Government’s criteria which plainly states that finalisation of design, procurement and delivery of projects must be by end March 2010. (Agenda Item 6, Policy & Resources Committee meeting, 2nd June 2009, Minute 3.7 refers.)
Minute 6.1 of the same meeting infers a potential conflict between the Town Centre Regeneration Strategy and the introduction of major capital investment. This raises two questions. What exactly is the amount of major capital investment? And secondly, just exactly what does Minute 6.1 mean?
I must also comment on your last sentence; second last paragraph; page 2. It is incongruous to say the least. Use of that phrase “accelerate the scheme”, is yet again problematic.
It is akin to telling a person catching a train “Don’t worry, you’ll still miss your train, but I’ll get you there quicker (accelerate) to miss it.” It is just plain daft!
It is appreciated that Newsletters have been distributed in the past and I’d be happy to see them continue, on the proviso that all information they contain is de facto fact.

(What is the current estimated cost of Denny Town Centre redevelopment? Do you know?)
Any Council originated literature which I have read varies between £11m - Falkirk Council Press Release 02/12/2008; £11m - Economic Strategy & Development Committee, 2nd December 2008; £13m - Economic Strategy & Development Committee, 16th June 2009.
Why does the latest Press Release (05/03/2010) from the Council state £15m? Since December 2008 until now just over a year later, in these recessionary times, we are expected to believe that there has been an increase of £4m (+25%) to the regeneration costs? Of course not. It’s duplicitous. I find it
extremely disappointing that there is a lack of respect to the Community of Denny & Dunipace with such behaviour.
Any updates on the issue of town centre regeneration, whether by press release or web update, I would hope will now follow a strict code of accuracy and truthfulness.
Thank you for addressing the interim response to myself meantime. I will advise you of a more
suitable alternative to this arrangment once I have the details of a forwarding address.
The demands of the community are indeed pressing, Councillor. Precisely because of these
economic times, inward investment is required on an almost emergency basis.
Private sector investment in the town is being dreadfully discouraged by the public face of our
town centre. Public pride in the town is terribly undermined by the blight of the Church Walk blocks.
Our childrens future is grim, to say the least.
We do not ask for charity or sympathy, only entitlement. And a fair playing field.
The amount of Council Tax levied by Falkirk Council on the residents of Denny & Dunipace
during the last 3 financial years was as follows -
· Year 2006-07 = £6,518,409
· Year 2007-08 = £6,684,388
· Year 2008-09 = £6,815,550
I will contact you in the near future to accept your kind invitation for discussions of a more indepth nature once I have consulted with my colleagues engaged in this matter.
Yours sincerely,
Brian W. McCabe
pp: The People of Denny & Dunipace.

So there you have it. Make up your own mind.
But at least you have had the opportunity to see the case presented from both sides and not purely from a politically motivated Council.
#8 Posted by Donald on 2 Jun 2010 at 23:03 PM
Mr McCabe you seem to leave the blame at the door of Falkirk Council. What about other parties in this debacle? Henry Boot, the developer for example? Are they not to have a share in blame for saying it's not "economically beneficial" to begin work in the current financial climate?

Mr McCabe, aren't you a friend of Cllr McNally?

Didn't you meet Alex Salmond and have extensive photos taken of the two of you (plus Mr McNally, plus Michael Matheson MSP) engaging in chat at Denny a day before the recent general elections?

Tut Tut! And here's you talking about people being "politcally motivated"
#9 Posted by ED on 18 Jun 2010 at 19:06 PM
Donald - It's not about politics.

Mr McCabe's sole aim is to see the regneration of Denny Town Centre take place as promised by Falkirk Council.

Falkirk Council take ultimate responsibility for the regeneration - not Henry Boot.

Both John McNally and Mr McCabe live in Denny and are dedicated to getting the regeneration started. Natural allies whatever their political beliefs.

To pass up the chance of emphasising the case for the redevelopment to Scotland's first minister would be incredibly stupid.

For the people of Denny this is not about politics, its about morale.
Brian William McCabe
#10 Posted by Brian William McCabe on 1 Jul 2010 at 15:53 PM
I always find it amusing the lengths some people will go to politically malign me in my efforts on the Denny regeneration campaign.
I have known John McNally for over 40 years, he used to cut my hair. I was best friends and in the same class as his brother Peter. I considered his late brother Michael a personal friend. I played in the same football team as Jim, another brother.
I fail to grasp Donald's argument here.

Falkirk Council have just issued a ‘Press Release’ which gives details of a new proposal for Denny town centre. This proposal was 1 of 3 options presented to the Full Council ‘in camera’, members of the press and general public being excluded from this part of their meeting. The public were therefore prevented from hearing of the other options which could have delivered an acceptable solution for Denny. The council has merely opted for the cheapest option which they have yet to communicate to the local community.
This lack of transparency is disgraceful. This revised option must be disseminated to the local community through a Public Meeting at the earliest opportunity. Falkirk Council leader Craig Martin is on record as saying, “Opting for a scaled down “plan B” to revamp Denny would only cause more delays and add further costs.” That is precisely what is now on the table for the people of Denny & Dunipace. I think it is totally unacceptable.
ALL of the residential flats; ALL of the office space; 10,000ft² of retail space; AND the top floor of our Library have all been cut from the new proposal. Where is the supposed commitment to the future of Denny and Dunipace with action such as this?
Again, to quote Cllr Martin from his latest press release: “We appreciate that for the Denny community the demolition of Church Walk will be the most powerful symbol of the town centre’s regeneration and securing this was a priority for the council.”
When is that going to happen?
Considering the current ‘Outline’ planning application will now have to be withdrawn, despite being 3 years late in submission; has been in with the council’s planners for over a year; and is STILL ‘Pending Consideration’, what faith should the local community place in this council’s statement that the unsightly blocks will be demolished in the next 2 years?
The local community have already expressed their very public concerns through a strongly attended public meeting; 2 ‘Walks Around the Blocks; a 1,000 signatory petition; finalist in the Plook on a Plinth award.
Perhaps we will be given a definitive date as to the demolition of the Church Walk blocks once Council speak to their developer Henry Boot, who Donald quite rightly lays a substantial portion of the blame.
Anyone else you'd care to blame, Donald? Before having another go at me? I enjoy the non-political (sic) criticism.

Incidentally, A+D Scotland issued a report welcoming the incorporation of residential flats into the development. The very same ones Falkirk Council have just deleted.

In these constrained economic times it is ironic that Falkirk Council have just approved an annual spend of £140k to maintain these empty derelict flats until they are demolished in 6 years time. You couldn't make it up.
Alan Taylor
#11 Posted by Alan Taylor on 19 Jul 2010 at 13:00 PM
Falkirk Council, including all past and present councillors and planning officials since 1975, should hang their head in shame that a once proud burgh town has been allowed to fall into such a state. It is utterly ridiculous of anyone to suggest that politics is the motivation behind calls for the block to be knocked down urgently. It is a blight on the landscape in the 21st century and brings the whole of the Falkirk area into considerable disrepute. The recession cannot be blamed as it has been in that state for 10 years! Leader of the Council, of course the capital budget needs to be reviewed - and urgently! Any good work that has been achieved by the Council (and there has been much good work done by both this and the previous adminstrations) in raising the profile of the Falkirk area will come crashing down if the town is named Carbuncle of the Year! The Council must get the red pen out and review the Capital Budget and start looking at where priorities must lie. If the Council doesn't do this, then it will have to put a picture of the Denny blocks on all glossy brochures alongside the Falkirk Wheel. One final thing, it would help if councillors put aside party politics - you're not running the country - just get on with the job of making the area better for everyone who lives here and a desirable place for visitors to come. The new M80 will help this area enormously. It will be completed by Autumn 2011 and the aim should be to have the bocks removed by then.
Brian McCabe
#12 Posted by Brian McCabe on 20 Jul 2010 at 09:30 AM
Well said Alan. Of course it's not politics. It's bigger than politics.
What the people of Denny & Dunipace have sufferred from over the past 30 years is a lack of respect and vocal representation in the chambers of the local council. We have had no commitment from any of the recent council administrations to move the issue of Denny town centre regeneration or the construction of DEAR (Denny Eastern Access Road) in any tangible form. The council will tell you they have a town centre developer onboard and a plan currently in for outline approval. Well, they themselves had a detailed planning application in for DEAR in 2005, which they withdrew in 2006! Why? We weren't in a recession then. What made them pull the most critical development for Denny's future in over 50 years?
The once proud burgh principality of Denny & Dunipace was wonderfully served by a Town Council which had the interests of its local community at heart and the place genuinely flourished. The political mud-slinging engaged in by some our our administrative councillors does nothing to advance the wellbeing of the town.

I met up with the judges of the Carbuncle Awards and gave them a brief guided tour around the environs of the town centre. One of the judges commented, "Brian, we approached Denny from the Falkirk side and it looks a lovely little town with lush green countryside all around; a fantastic new high school on its doorstep; and a wonderful Georgian Parish Church at the Cross.
The town centre blocks immediately hove into view. Unfortunately, that is exactly the very public face of my town, experienced by everyone who drives through. Those blocks have to go with immediate effect.
So Falkirk Council, it is entirely up to you. Do you continue to engage in petty party politics, or do you serve the people you are supposed to represent?
We'll wait and see.
#13 Posted by ED on 5 Aug 2010 at 21:13 PM
To add insult, two of the churches in Denny are to be closed down.

Denny in summary, the former picture house burnt down, the police station sold, the churches closed down, the town centre falling down...

Post your comments


All comments are pre-moderated and
must obey our house rules.


Back to March 2010

Search News
Subscribe to Urban Realm Magazine
Features & Reports
For more information from the industry visit our Features & Reports section.