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Last Updated: Friday, 21 October 2005, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
Officials condemn 'Carbuncle' tag
Cumbernauld flats
Planners said Cumbernauld was a thriving community
Council officials have criticised a "ridiculous" award after Cumbernauld was named Scotland's most dismal town for the second time.

The North Lanarkshire town received the Carbuncle award, or 'Plook on a Plinth', in a competition organised by architecture magazine Prospect.

But the council said it was "unhelpful, unjustified negative thinking".

Organisers said they took no pleasure in giving the award to Cumbernauld for a second time.

The council's planning director, David Porch, said Cumbernauld was a "thriving and energetic" town.

The town was chosen from a shortlist which included Ardrossan, Coatbridge, Greenock, Granton and Irvine.

Using one building to denigrate a whole town is not only unfair, it is irresponsible
David Porch
North Lanarkshire Council

The award is given to the place deemed worst for planning and architecture and follows a public vote on Prospect's website.

When it won the Carbuncle award in 2001, judges compared it to Kabul and described its shopping centre as a rabbit warren on stilts.

The shopping centre, which has been undergoing redevelopment, has again incurred the wrath of the judges and Prospect's readers.

'Rightly annoyed'

Tim Abrahams, deputy editor of Prospect magazine, said: "People in Cumbernauld and the surrounding regions are rightly annoyed.

"It gives us absolutely no pleasure to announce that four years after the last award was handed out, Cumbernauld has won the Plook on the Plinth Award for the Most Dismal Town in Scotland, again."

Mr Porch said the award ignored the true face of Cumbernauld and the many good things about the town.

Cumbernauld subway
The council said development of the town was under way

He said: "Cumbernauld is a thriving, energetic, growing community that deserves to be recognised for its housing, schools, transport systems and excellent employment statistics.

"We are aware of the issues surrounding the town centre building, but using one building to denigrate a whole town is not only unfair, it is irresponsible.

"If Cumbernauld is to continue to develop and grow it needs investment, not shallow, obstructive and damaging comment that offers no meaningful solutions or constructive suggestions."

He added: "We do not need Prospect Magazine to tell us how to develop Cumbernauld. We are continually in the process of doing exactly that."

Is there merit in highlighting our architectural horrors or is too much stall set by bricks and mortar? Do drab areas get you down or do you think it's the people and not the places that really matter? You sent us your views.

This talking point is now closed. The following represents the balance of opinions we received.

As a keen Gregory's Girl fan, I made the pilgrimage to Cumbernauld, and what they have done to The Plaza, aka Cumbernauld town centre, is an absolute disgrace. Where is the big clock? Where is the modernist architecture? Sure you can still meander through the rabbit warren corridors but the atmosphere of 70s hopefulness is long gone. I'm sure, in time, some glass front abomination will replace the existing town centre and that would be a shame. However, the biggest crime of all was not leaving the town centre as it was. In 100 years time it would have became Scotland's Eiffel Tower. Keep the town centre as it is! We must keep this 70s masterpiece; we need it to remember Gregory's Girl.
Thomas Olafson, Stockholm, Sweden

I was born and brought up there and can at least assure you that the designers of the town, for the most part, were living in the self same houses and neighbourhoods they were designing in Abronhill, Carbrain, Kildrum, Seafar, Ravenswood......in rented houses, same as everyone else. I have lived in 6 houses in Cumbernauld and there was no more or less wrong with those than any house I have lived in elsewhere. The neighbourhoods have suffered, true, and the centre of the town is a mess, with Burger Kings and Blockbusters all over the place. Many of the problems in neighbourhoods have to do with lack of investment in ongoing maintenance. But Joe Storrie should aknowledge that the housing that was most problematic, the deck access blocks, have been taken down and replaced with townhouses, the point blocks have had entry systems which made a huge difference. As regards the accountability of the 'middle-class professionals' who designed the place? Perhaps he should pop up to the M80 Inquiry at Westerwoods and have a look at the retired former CDC guys who are grafting away, in their own time and at their own expense to help the people of the town mount their opposition to the A80 online route.
Anne, Scotland

I'm really pleased at the area where I live has been given this award. Now maybe this will help put some pressure on the council to actually do something about the disgraceful state many of the streets are in. There are so many part-demolished walls, loose paving slabs, a horrendous amount of dog fouling not to mention all of the fly tipping. I cant wait for the day I manage to leave this place.
Iain, Cumbernauld

I think Cumbernauld should be applauded because it's the best nuclear deterrent ever. It shows what we'd be left with if the missiles were ever used. This led directly to the arms agreements thereby saving everyone except the inhabitants of Cumbernauld from living in a post-nuclear nightmare.
Richard McCallum, Glasgow

I think it's unfair Cumbernauld has been lumbered with this stupid award again. The town has expanded hugely over the last decade and the housing market is thriving, so if it's so bad why are people still moving here? The town centre building is a mess but the rest of the town is fine. If it wasn't I wouldn't live there. I can think of much, much worse towns in Scotland
Sarah, Cumbernauld

Cumbernauld has to be the worst of the new towns in Scotland - my family always used to say that on approaching the town centre it looked like a cement factory on stilts! It hasn't changed. Knock down the concrete monstrosity and start again!
Joe O'Hara, West Calder

The highlight of my life was moving away from Cumbernauld when I was 18. To quote from a song from my childhood, "Rip It Up and Start Again."
Donny, Glasgow

"Organisers said the award was intended to be light-hearted and provoke architectural debate". If this is their only intention then why has Cumbernauld been nominated on a regular basis and places like Glasgow, Greenock, Port Glasgow and many more are ignored? Cumbernauld has its good areas and its bad areas like everywhere else and I agree that the town centre is a disaster but the smug comments from the people from Glasgow and Hamilton are laughable. I've been to bad areas in Glasgow and Hamilton, which are a whole lot worse off than Cumbernauld. I think the judges are picking on easy targets when you look at the short list. If they really want to stir up debate they should highlight the effects that architectural disasters have on crime and poverty in areas such as Robroyston, Easterhouse and Ferguslie Park.
John, Cumbernauld

I grew up in Cumbernauld and was glad to escape from there when I turned 18. Not only is the town an eyesore but it has little to offer its younger residents. It's a depressing place to live and grow up and I for one have vowed never to return.
Ian Arthur, Glasgow

How the council's planning director David Porch can claim Cumbernauld is a "thriving and energetic" town is beyond me. Yes, there are good things about the town, like Cumbernauld Theatre and the Tryst sports centre, but it is a desert for pubs, clubs and restaurants, there is no cinema, and the wasteland that is the town centre represents the heart and soul of Cumbernauld: empty, desolate and unloved. The people of Cumbernauld have been treated shamefully for years. The carbuncle award is completely apt, once more.
Ted, Cumbernauld

What about Livingston? A very drab place indeed, look at the design of the McArthur Glen building!
Paul, East Calder, West Lothian

How can anybody protest against the truth? Cumbernauld is an ugly remnant of the mid 20th century. Other cities and towns are dealing with these legacies, Dundee being a prime example. Let's get rid of the concrete mistakes of the planners from the 50s and 60s, and build a Scotland that reflects the diverse culture and beauty that we have to offer.
Rufus Marland, Letham, Angus

David Porch (planning director) says that he doesn't need Prospect Magazine to tell him how to develop Cumbernauld. Well, how long have the residents of Cumbernauld been told that a new town centre was coming? Five years? 10 years? It's time the planners and politicians took responsibility and stopped promising and actually delivered. For Cumbernauld residents, the town centre fully merits the "plook" award!
Michael Gleeson, Cumbernauld

I live in Cumbernauld and have to agree that our town centre is a dismal and depressing place at best and quite frankly the money spent on it recently was wasted. It is cold and uninviting and has no decent shopping facilities. They need to demolish it and start again.
A Lucas, Cumbernauld

I used to work in an office in the town shopping centre. In the 12 months I was there I never ever saw all the escalators operational - never! They were either broken or a man was buried in the bowels of the contraption trying to make it work. On a rainy day it was like going to the soviet Gulag. On a sunny day it was nice to see the hills in the distance.
Mike Mckenna, North Carolina, USA

I grew up in Cumbernauld and can find no reason to defend any of the negative comments about it. The centralised approach to shopping etc has failed everyone who lives there and local communities have little to offer. The mentality of the planners is to build one of everything and stick it in the middle of the town. Cumbernauld has no cinema, decent shopping, worthy theatre facilities.......the list goes on. Couple that with thousands of grey roughcast houses with tiny windows, high crime, poor medical services and what do you get? Oh yes, a Carbuncle.
David, Glasgow

The town centre building is an utter monstrosity and no amount of money thrown at it will change that. Perhaps David Porch can stop avoiding the issue and tell us the real reason why it is not demolished and include details of alleged underhand tactics by centre owners to block the construction of a new shopping centre.
Gordon Day, Cumbernauld

Yes, there is merit in this as sometimes it is worth pointing out where things are going wrong. And yes drab areas get people down. It's the combination of people and places that matter. Personally speaking, having spent some time in Cumbernauld, it is a fascinating example of modernist urban design which is why UNESCO have nominated it as a potential 20th Century world heritage site in the UK. However, I would question the fundamental basis on which the new town was planned. Distilling a town into functional zones with residential areas separated from work and leisure and the roads kept separate from everything does not work. It cannot create sustainable communities. What results is often monotonous and unsatisfying. Additionally, the guiding vision that created Cumbernauld's mega structure town centre has been lost and has proved inflexible in the face of change. What we now see is the sixties vision surrounded by a sea of disjointed, incoherent extensions. Like most utopian visions it has had a head on crash with reality and the result is not a pretty sight. If there could now be a follow through to give some pointers as to how Cumbernauld could get out of this mess that would helpful.
Niall Murphy, Glasgow

24 hour Asda and 24 hour Tesco - can't get better than that!
A, Airdrie

Maybe the working classes might think about voting for someone other than the same council which has made such a mess of Cumbernauld. The middle class professionals who designed East Kilbride managed to avoid creating urban ghettos and enslaving people. The centre was designed in the 60s, it's replacement designed in the 80s then again in the 90s. Class war, I think not. Scottish incompetence, useless politicians, sounds about right.
Alasdair, London

I stay in Cumbernauld and find it a pleasant enough place to stay, however it is true that the town centre is a joke and needs serious work to bring it up to an acceptable standard. When will the local authority wake up, spend the necessary money (which, lets face it, there should be plenty of given the amount of land sold off for housing) and encourage developers and retailers to the town centre? Cumbernauld is expanding but does not have proper amenities, such as cinemas etc... North Lanarkshire council seem to concentrate resources on Wishaw and Motherwell, etc... forgetting about Cumbernauld.
Alan, Cumbernauld

I agree. The place is a shambles!
Susan Allan, Cumbernauld

Yes! I live in Cumbernauld and think it is great that we have won this award. It should ultimately put pressure on the local council to actually do something in the town that everyone agrees is well overdue. The council makes a lot of money on council tax out of Cumbernauld, but we get very little back in return. The more awards we win like this the better!
John Whitehill, Cumbernauld

In these days of political correctness it is refreshing to have a good honest award for some horrifically designed buildings/towns. If anything it gives the local councils a bit of a reminder that they are underperforming in their duties.
Dave, Gourock

As one of the previous "winners" of this "award" we understand why people are dismayed. Areas that are traditionally low-skilled working class towns which have been under-invested for many years seem to be the shortlisted towns. Airdrie, with Coatbridge to its west and Cumbernauld to its north. This "award" has no purpose but to highlight the bad aesthetic points of an area rather than its attractive points such as community spirit. The judges should remember that "Beauty is only skin deep".
Paul Marshall, Airdrie

This competition was clearly fixed. I can't believe Greenock didn't win.
Alasdair, Greenock

I live in Cumbernauld and apart from a few nice areas on its outskirts the majority of the town is very much run down. The town centre was supposed to be getting redeveloped but it looks to me like the council have given up on the town. Perhaps it's time North Lanarkshire Council invested some time and money into redeveloping the area and making it a town residents like myself can be proud of again.
Allan Stoneham, Cumbernauld

I've travelled and lived in a fair few places in Scotland and England and there are many, many worse places to live or be brought up in than Ardrossan. A few of the planning approvals that have been granted over the years should be seriously looked at though. Who approved a massive ugly warehouse in the middle of a park where it blocks out the views of Arran and the Clyde for half the town? Disgraceful. The wind farm is an engineering marvel, even though it dominates almost everything. Local people should have much more say about what can be plonked down in their town, rather than councillors who barely set foot in the place.
Joe, Ex-Ardrossan

The problem with these kinds of awards is that someone always has to come last. Such awards are simply discouraging and disheartening to both residents in these towns and to local authorities who are doubtless trying to regenerate these areas. Just because a town is unattractive or the buildings are poorly planned does not mean it can't be a happy hometown for many people. As they say - "home is where the heart is" and there are more important things than looks.
John McLean, Glasgow

Anyone ever lived in or visited a town called Girvan? It must be the most drab and boring place in Scotland, I lived there for 16 very long years. I now live in Edinburgh which makes Girvan look like it's stuck in a time warp 20 years behind Edinburgh!
Billy Drynan, Edinburgh

It is about time the council officials took heed of all the justified criticism levelled at Cumbernauld and took major steps to transform the horrible monstrosity of the massive building which makes up the 'town centre'. It is the first thing visitors see when they come into the town and just gives it a dreadful impression.
Alistair Mackenzie, Dunfermline

I live in Cumbernauld, and generally it is ok. But the town centre is an absolute nightmare. It says a lot for the council and North Lanarkshire that four years ago they weren't shamed enough to do something to improve the place. Nearby towns such as Stirling, Falkirk and even Coatbridge have far more appealing shopping areas. It is no wonder no-one shops there these days.
Tony Collins, Cumbernauld

Encouraging Cumbernauld's reputation as a drab place is doubtlessly damaging to its local economy. It is not going to help Cumbernauld or Scotland's architecture to improve. What does this magazine hope to achieve? I grew up not too far from Cumbernauld with the conditioned notion that Cumbernauld was not a nice place. I don't know the town centre at all but I would never move there because I have been put off. But I used to enjoy visiting Cumbernauld Theatre!
Ailsa, Cupar

Absolutely right - it's a grim place. I had the misfortune to work there years ago and the last time I visited it hadn't improved in the slightest.
Michael McGinness, Glasgow

I have lived in Cumbernauld for 34 years and would have to agree that the town centre itself is an utter disgrace and has been for many years. There are no good shopping facilities. We are the poor relation of the Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council. However, Cumbernauld has many good qualities and the outlying areas are much nicer than the actual town centre itself. It has Cumbernauld Theatre, Palacerigg Country Park and golf course, the Tyrst (if they would hurry up and finish the pool). It has always been a safe place to live and on the whole the people are good. Look past the town centre and you will see the real Cumbernauld. About 64,000 people live there, so it can't be all bad.
Eleanor, Cumbernauld

I agree it is unfair to single out a town as a single entity, as it is disheartening for the people who have to live there. I think instead the award should single out the real culprits i.e. the architects of individual buildings. They should be named and shamed. It would also be a good idea to compile a list of every major town/city in the UK with examples of the best and the worst buildings there.
Gavi Park, Manchester

The award is deserved primarily due to the town centre. Council officials are just trying to deflect the fact that they have failed to improve the building after 10 years of trying! Maybe winning the award again will embarrass them into doing something.
Graeme, Glasgow

Quite right! Have you been to Cumbernauld? It is as bad as they say, an architectural vacuum.
Rob, Glasgow

I live in Cumbernauld and totally agree with the result of the judgement in the magazine. It is dismal - there is nothing for people to do between the ages of five and 18. The shopping centre is a complete nightmare - shops come and go so often. We have been promised a new shopping centre next to the old one where Asda used to be and work has still got to start (even though it was supposed to start last year). Maybe now the council and town officials will listen and do something about it!
Alistair, Cumbernauld

I live in Cumbernauld and I have to say the town centre (pictured) is not a very nice place to visit, especially the exterior of the buildings. On entering some areas of the centre you get the feeling that it is old and run down. The Carbuncle award doesn't help the town in any way - what companies would want to put money into developing this area after this award? There have been development attempts where construction companies have pulled out. Development keeps being delayed year after year. The people of Cumbernauld are tired of our town centre and a large number of people now shop in Glasgow, Falkirk and other areas. What doesn't help the town centre is the fact that both large supermarkets, Asda and Tesco, moved out of the main shopping area to their own sites sitting at either side of the centre. This drives business away from the main shopping area reducing passing trade. The supermarkets mean that convenience shopping is increasing. Cumbernauld should be a hub of activity for shoppers and developers alike and should have a first class shopping centre because of it's central location in between Glasgow and Edinburgh. So come on Cumbernauld, let's get it put right!
R McKenzie, Cumbernauld

Cumbernauld is like anywhere, there are good bits and bad bits. It is actually a decent town built amongst some gorgeous countryside and has more of its fair share of open green areas, woods and forests. I think a balanced opinion of Cumbernauld's merits is needed - after all this 'award' is only about the town centre and does not recognise any of the many positive aspects. This is not good as it erroneously labels the entire town. This can be damaging for the town's economic prospects i.e. future investment.
Paul, Dunfermline

Unfair I think, Irvine is way more desolate and Ardrossan reminds me of a Steinbeck novel...

Having had relatives that live in Cumbernauld and having visited the place many times, it is true that it is a complete mess - Soviet Russia has nothing on Cumbernauld
William Hamilton, Glasgow, UK

Ever been to Cumbernauld? It's a concrete jungle and a very, very drab place.
Thomas Armour, Hamilton

Architecture does matter, but as long as middle class professionals continue to design low-cost builds over which the vast majority of working class residents have no say, then urban ghettos will always be a cheap option. There ought to be greater accountability, a more democratic input and political debate about what the urban landscape should comprise.
Joe Storrie, Dunfermline

See pictures of Scotland's most "dismal" town

'Plook' award shortlist announced
06 Oct 05 |  Scotland
Scottish towns in 'crap' list
03 Oct 03 |  Scotland
What's it called? Cumbernauld
21 Nov 01 |  Scotland
Cumbernauld wins carbuncle award
21 Nov 01 |  Scotland
Hull fights to defend its image
31 Jul 03 |  Humber

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