Aberdeen takes top spot in annual Carbuncle awards

Union Street in Aberdeen.  Aberdeen has been branded "the most dismal town" in Scotland. Picture: SWNS
Union Street in Aberdeen. Aberdeen has been branded "the most dismal town" in Scotland. Picture: SWNS
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ABERDEEN, the “Granite City”, with its reputation as a mecca for big-spending oil rich executives, has become the first city in Scotland to be awarded the most unwanted award in architecture - the Plook-on-the Plinth trophy for the most dismal town in the 2015 Carbuncle Awards.

It beat off stiff competition from towns such as Cumbernauld, East Kilbride and Leven, and emerged as an early front runner when readers of Urban Realm architecture award nominated the city.

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This followed a catalogue of “embarrassing missteps” from controversial plans to transform Union Terrace Gardens to the failed bid for 2017 City of Culture and the on-going fracas over proposals for Marischal Square.

Added to this is the constant loss of shops from Union Street as shoppers opt for covered malls, which the magazine says is “sucking the life out of surrounding streets.”

The judges said “such stumbles are hard to square with what remains a rich granite heritage that lends Aberdeen a solid if dour demeanour.

“Sadly, there has been little of note built in the modern era to do justice to this legacy with durability and sustainability sacrificed in favour of flimsy, throwaway buildings that foster an ‘anything goes’ attitude.”

The handover ceremony of the infamous “Plook on the Plinth” award will take place at 11am this morning in Marischal Square.

John Glenday, the magazine’s editor, said despite the city benefitting from the oil wealth the council problems centred around the council’s failure to tackle the decline and that its well-off reputation meant it was being overlooked for Scottish Government funding.

“Aberdeen has taken its eye off the ball and not addressed urgent issues such as the upgrading of Union Street. The Scottish Government has given funding to many Central Belt towns such as Paisley, Falkirk and Greenock but Aberdeen has been low down on the pecking order for funds. The fall in the oil price is affecting the city too and a lot of the wealth has dissipated out to surrounding areas such as Banchory.

“It is also by no means immune to the wider issues affecting Scotland with retailers migrating to the shopping mall thoroughfares of Union Square and the St Nicholas centre. There has been a failure of planning to address that issue. Union Street should be the shop window for the city for visitors coming in. The last thing they need to see is boarded up outlets and “pound shops”.

Mr Glenday said the city needed to take action to restore its reputation and had been left behind by a city such as Dundee which was developing its waterfront.

“It need to get its heart back. It should look to what other cities such as Bristol and Liverpool have done by creating covered areas to attract shoppers back to its streets. By that I mean reinvigorating the centre by creating a café culture rather than a car culture.

Ramsay Milne, convener of the council’s planning development management committee, said: ““Aberdeen City Council recognises that there is work to do to improve the heart of the city and progress is well under way to refine a City Centre Masterplan, which will set the framework to enhance the city centre in the short, medium and long term.

Kevin Stewart, SNP MSP, for Aberdeen Central, said: “This attack on Aberdeen is unwarranted, but the public criticism of the state of the city centre must be a wake up call to the Labour-led administration that their inept management of the city cannot continue. No matter how many missteps we see from the Labour administration, they still seemed to determined to press on and do more to undermine Aberdeen.

Also nominated were Greenock, Kirkintilloch, Lochgelly in Fife, and Maddiston in Falkirk.

A ‘Pock Mark’ award for worst planning decision was handed to Edinburgh City Council for demolition of the B-listed Scottish Provident Building on St Andrews Square. Edinburgh Airport’s recently completed eastern terminal expansions netted a ‘Zit’ accolade for Scotland’s worst building.

Aberdeen council warn of cuts over funding deficit

The magazine said Aberdeen had been voted by readers “following a litany of embarrassing missteps from the Union Terrace Gardens fiasco to the failed bid for 2017 City of Culture to today’s fracas over Marischal Square”.

It added: “These losses have been compounded by the continued haemorrhaging of shops on Union Street which feed a wider malaise as shoppers retreat to covered malls, sucking the life out of surrounding streets.

“Such stumbles are hard to square with what remains a rich granite heritage that lends Aberdeen a solid if dour demeanour. Sadly, there has been little of note built in the modern era to do justice to this legacy with durability and sustainability sacrificed in favour of flimsy, throwaway buildings that foster an ‘anything goes’ attitude.”

Previous recipients of the award include John O’Groats in the Highlands, Glenrothes in Fife, Coatbridge in Lanarkshire and Linwood in Renfrewshire.