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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 16:15 GMT
What's it called? Cumbernauld
Cumbernauld centre
Cumbernauld centre found little favour
By BBC News Online Scotland's Murray Cox

Cumbernauld has a couple of claims to fame - the cult movie Gregory's Girl was filmed there, and the town was immortalised in a TV advert which repeatedly asked, "What's it called?" Cumbernauld, was apparently the appropriate answer.

But now the town, to the north-east of Glasgow, has a claim to infamy after winning an award for being the most dismal place in Scotland.

The Carbuncle Award, voted for by readers of business magazine Unlimited, is bestowed annually on a Scottish town which is deemed to be a blot on the landscape.

This time the dubious honour has been given to Cumbernauld in recognition of its town centre, which has been described as "a rabbit warren on stilts".

Plook on a Plinth
Plook on a Plinth - Cumbernauld's newest claim to fame

The centre stems from the town's rebirth in 1956, when it was designated as one of five "new towns" in Scotland.

At that point people were being moved out of Glasgow as slums were cleared and the "overspill" were given the opportunity to move to new properties in places like Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Livingston, Irvine and Glenrothes.

The idea behind the towns was to effectively start from scratch, and town planners were given the opportunity to design the towns more or less as a whole - they are characterised by open spaces and parkland.

The five new towns have had varying degrees of commercial success.

Suburbs in the towns are dispersed and without access to a car residents can be left feeling isolated and removed from the facilities which are available.

But Cumbernauld's carbuncle is in recognition of its town centre.

Cumbernauld centre was built in the 1960s

A sprawling, angular concrete complex, it was described by the award organisers as "soulless and inaccessible, something like Eastern Europe before the wall came down".

Gordon Young, Carbuncle chairman and editor of Unlimited magazine, accused North Lanarkshire Council of seriously neglecting the town.

This is the second time the infamous 'plook' has been given to a town in North Lanarkshire, last year it was awarded to Airdrie.

Mr Young said: "Cumbernauld, won this prize, not because of the mistakes made in the 1960s, but because politicians have failed to do anything to remedy those mistakes.

"It is not a deprived area, and it is not suffering from a lack of investment, what appears to be lacking is political will and sensible planning."

However, despite Mr Young's comments the centre won design prizes in years gone by and architectural consultant Neil Baxter said the building was perfectly functional.

Cumbernauld centre
The "honour" was for the centre and not Cumbernauld as a whole

He also dismissed the award as a "cheap publicity stunt" by the sponsoring magazine.

Cumbernauld has a population of about 52,200 people, making it the largest town in the North Lanarkshire Council area.

It can trace its origins back over hundreds of years, and at one time it had a thriving textile industry.

In later years it was founded on quarrying and mining, and later still it developed a high-tech economy as the home to a number of electronic companies.

The name Cumbernauld is Gaelic for "meeting of the waters".

See also:

21 Nov 01 | Scotland
05 Oct 01 | Scotland
20 Nov 00 | Scotland
17 Nov 00 | Scotland
16 Sep 99 | e-cyclopedia
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