And the winner of the most dismal town in Scotland is ... Glenrothes

A FRESH row over the annual "Carbuncles" awards flared yesterday after Glenrothes was named the most dismal town in Scotland.

Fife's new town has followed the likes of Cumbernauld, Airdrie and Coatbridge by receiving the unwanted honour of becoming Scotland's "Plook on the Plinth".

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Glenrothes town centre was branded depressing and investment-starved by the architecture magazine Prospect, which organises the controversial competition.

The criticism triggered an angry response from Fife Council, which said work was under way to breathe new life into the town.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump's planned golf course development in Aberdeenshire has also become the recipient of a Carbuncle after the approval of the scheme was judged the worst planning decision of 2008.

The conversion of the former Plaza Ballroom in Glasgow into flats has been branded Scotland's worst new building in the Carbuncles, which have been running since 2000.

Gordon Young, the editor of Prospect, who branded the exterior of the shopping centre in Glenrothes ugly and depressing, said: "There is nothing wrong with the town itself. But the people who live there are being badly let down by its depressing town centre, which could and should be better."

Campaigners battling to secure a brighter future for the town set up an action group a year ago.

Ron Page, spokesman for the Glenrothes Area Futures Group, said: "We reckon Fife Council has ignored the Glenrothes area for ten-15 years."

But Peter Grant, Fife Council's leader, said critics of Glenrothes and its town centre were "out of touch". The council insisted plans were being progressed for new retail and leisure facilities in the town centre, including a major Sainsbury store.

Of the Trump development, the judges condemned the decision to "rip up" planning rules to allow the scheme to go ahead. Mr Trump's spokesman last night branded the award "a joke", and said no-one in Scotland would take it seriously.

However Tricia Marwick, SNP MSP for Central Fife, said: "I am sick to death of people doing down Glenrothes. I fully agree that we need more civic space in Glenrothes. However, the problem, as we all know, is that the Kingdom Shopping Centre and the area surrounding it is privately owned thanks to decisions taken by previous administrations.

"This has left us with virtually no civic space and a town centre surrounded by roads."

BACKGROUND

ESTABLISHED in 1948, Glenrothes was one of several post-war new towns. It was built to house workers at the colliery in the nearby village of Thornton, which was closed in 1961 because of flooding. The town was then appointed as one of the economic focal points in Central Scotland and became part of Silicon Glen.

Shopping centre offers cheer on a grey day

EVEN the slate-grey skies looming over Fife seemed in keeping with the unwanted honour conferred on Glenrothes yesterday.

Driving into the town centre it is not difficult to see why it was nominated as a contender for a "Carbuncle".

Is this the place with the most pressing claim to be named, as Glenrothes was, the most dismal town in Scotland, or is it really a "flagship for the Kingdom of Fife", as the local authority claimed in its riposte to the unveiling of the award?

The buildings huddled around Glenrothes's Kingdom Shopping Centre are almost uniformly grim.

The boarded-up nightclub is still promoting the hire of its "fantastic function rooms", despite being plastered in flyposters.

It is also certain that the Village People did not have the Glenrothes YMCA in mind when they were strutting about on stage.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Albany Gate approach to the complex looks as if it has been specially adapted for use as a horror film set.

The clock tower sculpture, which has been in place since 1964, looks particularly chilling.

Once inside, however, Glenrothes's shopping centre is a surprisingly cheerful place.

Although there are the familiar discount shops dotted around, other household names, including Boots and WH Smith, are thronged with shoppers.

Despite the credit crunch having claimed a number of shops recently, including Woolworths, there was no shortage of customers yesterday lunchtime, while shoppers packed into eateries such as Cafe Alfresco, which – despite its moniker – was entirely under cover.

The judges' description of the inside of the shopping centre as an "80s timewarp" seems unduly harsh. It felt positively modern compared with others around the country.

But it seems the perfect description for perhaps the most forbidding building of them all – the indoor bowling alley – what appears to be the only real attraction for youngsters in the town centre.

While Fife Council's leaders spluttered with indignation about the "cheap publicity stunt" they believe has been carried out at Glenrothes's expense, most of the shoppers The Scotsman spoke to seemed in agreement with the findings.

Elizabeth McWilliams, 49, an advice and support manager with the local authority, from Markinch, said: "The shopping centre is rubbish, to be honest with you.

"It only really has cheap shops, and nothing half-decent like a Debenhams or a Marks & Spencer. It's never been much good here. I actually have to go to Dundee if I want to find any decent shops."

Robert Cook, 50, from Auchmuchty and unemployed, said: "The only way to brighten this place up would be with a bomb. The council simply has to knock it down and start again."

Susan Hunter, 48, also unemployed, from Glenrothes, said: "The main problem with the town centre is the lack of things to do, especially for youngsters. Glenrothes desperately needs a cinema or an ice rink. All the teenagers do is hang around. There's no way I would come down here at night-time."