HERITAGE campaigners have been left stunned by a decision to award listed building status to a concrete football grandstand described as resembling "something out of the former Soviet Union in the 1960s".
They have looked on in amazement as inspectors from Historic Scotland have slapped a B-listing on the 42-year-old stand of Gala Fairydean FC at their Netherdale ground, in Galashiels, Selkirkshire, after they fought an unsuccessful battle to stop an historic building from being bulldozed to make way for a 20 million superstore in the town.
Historic Scotland described the stadium as a "unique building" and praised its architectural features.
However, Tom Douglas, of Borders Heritage at Risk, said: "It makes you really wonder what is going on.
"We lost a very aesthetically attractive sandstone building which also had an important history behind it, as it was the original textiles college in the Borders, to make way for a supermarket.
"Basically, Tesco was allowed to ride roughshod over the feelings of the people in the town.
"And yet we are pulling out all the stops to preserve this concrete stand, which, with all due respect to Gala Fairydean, is not the most pleasing on the eye.
"In fact, it looks like something out of the former Soviet Union in the 1960s."
The Fairydean stand, which cost 27,000 to build and seats 500, officially opened in 1964 with a game against East Fife.
Dr Deborah Mays, the head of listings at the Scottish Executive, said: "Gala Fairydean stadium is a unique building.
"The way the concrete has been used for visual effect is striking and shows how the architect, Peter Wormsley, had injected imagination into the design of what had previously been a solely functional structure."
She added: "Once a building is listed, consent is needed to make alterations.
"This ensures that any change is managed carefully and the character and setting of the building are preserved to be enjoyed by present and future generations."
Over the past decade the concrete stand was partially fitted with black plastic seating acquired from Newcastle United's St James' Park.
But that was recently ripped out and the structure reverted to its original wooden benches.
Simon Gillie, the chairman of Gala Football Club, which celebrates its centenary next year, admitted that he was surprised by the decision of the Historic Scotland inspectors.
But he added: "Some love the stand, some hate it, but it has certainly done Gala Fairydean proud over the years."
"It is by far the largest football stand in the Borders - something we should be proud of.
"The stand being listed has rounded off a good year for football in Galashiels."
A HISTORY OF CONTROVERSIAL LISTING DECISIONS
GASOMETERS, tower blocks and a racecourse feature have been listed by Historic Scotland - and the body even planned to protect a concrete oil bunker.
A gasometer on Granton waterfront was B-listed in 1998. The decision was condemned and the structure had been painted 50 years before to help it blend in with the sky and the Forth.
Controversy also surrounded the proposed A-listing last year of two 1960s Edinburgh University monoliths in George Square - the David Hume Tower and the University Library.
In another case that divided opinion, the old bookies tower at the former Lanark racecourse was also awarded A-listed status, despite being in a bad state of decay and disused for years.
But Historic Scotland backed down in the face of threatened legal action from developers when it proposed A-listing a "unique" disused oil bunker at the former Rosyth naval base in 2002.