Wed, Sep 22, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Residents lobby for ‘most dismal town’ in Scotland award

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Residents of a small town near Falkirk have volunteered to accept an architectural award for the most dismal town in Scotland in protest at their derelict shopping center.

Regeneration campaigners in Denny, Stirlingshire, approached the organizers of the annual Carbuncle trophy after they discovered that no one was prepared to collect it on behalf of this year’s actual winner, John o’Groats.

The small village on Britain’s northeastern tip may be famous for charity fundraisers walking from there to Land’s End at the extreme southwest of England, but critics of John o’Groats regard it as one of the ugliest places in the country, largely thanks to a large empty hotel and soulless car park overlooking the Pentland Firth.

Denny was one of four runners-up in this year’s award — which is known as the “plook on a plinth” and run by design magazine Urban Realm — because of a decrepit and empty block of low-rise flats and shops dominating the town center.

Organizers of campaign group Walk Around the Block have been protesting about the delays in demolishing the buildings; a pro-regeneration Facebook page has nearly 1,800 members.

It is the first time people from any of the winning or nominated towns, which have included Cumbernauld and Glenrothes, have come forward to accept the award since it was launched in 2000.

Brian McCabe, a spokesman for the group, told the BBC: “The town center looks like Beirut on a bad day. It’s a blot on the landscape. It’s a lovely town, but as soon as prospective house-buyers drive down the main street, the deal is off.”

The leader of Falkirk council, Craig Martin, said he agreed the block was an eyesore, but was furious about McCabe’s accusation that the council was ignoring demands to replace it. Earlier this year, a £15 million (US$23 million) scheme to rebuild the center with a new shopping precinct collapsed because of the recession. Martin said a new project was now under way, which would see the blocks demolished next summer.

The council was investing millions of pounds in the scheme, he said.

John Glenday of Urban Realm said it was the first time anyone had volunteered to claim the Carbuncle award, but saw it as a force for good.

“We have always been at pains to stress that although, on the face of it, this trophy is an unwelcome sight, it should in fact be harnessed as a force for good,” he said. “Our plook will provide Denny with just the catalyst it needs in order to spur Falkirk council into action and articulate their plight to the wider country.”

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