Town so ugly, residents want it demolished

Key points

Cumbernauld locals nominate entire town to be razed as part TV series

• Despite being location of Scottish film Gregory’s Girl, town has few fans

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• Response to suggestion mixed on town's streets; Channel 4 politely declined

Key quote

"It’s a bit further than we want to go for a programme" - Channel 4 spokesman

Story in full POOR old Cumbernauld. The town with all the popular appeal of a Moscow suburb is under fire again but this time from within, according to Channel 4.

The station is making a four-part series Demolition, in which viewers nominate an "eyesore" building they want bulldozed.

Some residents of Cumbernauld have apparently demanded Channel 4 help raze their entire town to the ground.

"It’s a bit further than we want to go for a programme," said a spokesman. The channel was surprised by the response that they received after they announced the series.

"We anticipated suggestions on single buildings, but a whole town was one of the more unusual ones," the spokesman said.

It was, he added, among the first suggestions made via the channel’s website, which does not officially start accepting nominations until today.

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At the series’ end, a "prize" blot on the landscape will be demolished.

Criticism of Cumbernauld, created in 1956 for the Glasgow "overspill", usually comes from outsiders.

Its stark architecture has few fans and it was described as one of the worst places to live in the UK. The Idler’s Book of Crap Towns said "town-planning students visit Cumbernauld to learn what not to do".

Before that, a business magazine awarded Cumbernauld the Carbuncle Award, bestowed annually on a town deemed to be a blot on the landscape.

The town centre was described as "a rabbit warren on stilts, a sprawling, angular concrete complex that is soulless, inaccessible, like something from Eastern Europe".

However, the award was dismissed as a "cheap stunt" by Neil Baxter, the eminent architectural consultant.

And Cumbernauld does have some solid claims to fame. It was the location for Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl and the town for which the words of a catchy television advertising campaign, which passed into the language, were written.

In the advert, the Scottish comedian Ronnie Corbett asked: "What’s it called?" The answer: "Cumbernauld!"

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The strength, and weakness, of Cumbernauld is that it was built from scratch, and many concepts that appeared brilliant in the 1960s do not work for the 21st century.

But this is a time to "talk it up" and not tear it down, according to those who know the town.

Ken Buchanan, the former world champion boxing legend, is from Edinburgh, but has lived in Cumbernauld for 12 years.

He said yesterday: "Admittedly, the planners did a better job with East Kilbride, another new town, but there is a spirit here among the people. Most are protective of Cumbernauld and so am I."

Alister Blyth, the editor of the Cumbernauld News, said yesterday: "I came here a year ago and I admit that, at first, I thought it was a dump. The futuristic ambitions of the 1950s were looking a bit like a concrete jungle.

"But as I got to know the place I realised there are a lot of good things going on - 5 million spent on the new town centre and the start of work on the Antonine shopping centre.

"I think it’s time to talk the town up rather than do it down."

William Carmichael, a councillor for Abronhill South, who has lived in the town since he was 11, added: "It has its faults but you don’t pull down a whole wall just because you don’t like a few bricks.

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"The housing is good and the problems are being sorted out. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

"Cumbernauld suffered a double whammy when it was absorbed into North Lanarkshire Council and lost its development agency. People have had a bit of a downer on the town since."

Residents were split yesterday on the bizarre suggestion to Channel 4. Margaret Garrod, 53, who has lived in Cumbernauld since childhood, said: "Cumbernauld is a sitting target, a place to sneer at, but it was built with great hopes and they will be fulfilled."

However, another resident, Alex Massie, 51, added: "I don’t think anyone recognises it was once cutting-edge architecture. It just looks tired and dated and should be re-thought entirely."

It has not all been bad news for Cumbernauld. It was recently named as an official treasure of late 20th-century architecture by a United Nations heritage body.

Icomos UK identified it as one of the top 20 sites in the UK for "architecture and housing".

The proud home of the abandoned shopping trolley... and Jackie Bird

CUMBERNAULD is Gaelic for "meeting of the waters", in reference to Luggie Water and the Red Burn which are close to the old village.

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A settlement dates to Roman times and James IV once ranged over large natural forests hunting boar and "wild" cattle.

However, times change and the "new" town was recently accorded the dubious honour of winning a poll ... for the most shopping trolleys dumped in the streets.

Famous Cumbernauldians include Craig Ferguson, the writer, director and film star, who took over from David Letterman on American television’s Late Late Show.

Other luminaries are the writer Liz Lochhead, the Celtic player Jackie MacNamara, Ken Buchanan, the world champion boxing legend, and Jackie Bird, the television presenter.

Cumbernauld has a population of about 52,200 people, making it the largest town in North Lanarkshire.

Cumbernauld Village was there first, part of the Cumbernauld estate, owned by the Flemings, hereditary Earls of Wigtown.

Hi-tech industries flocked to the new town after it was created in 1956 and it now enjoys one of the healthiest economies in Scotland.

Cumbernauld’s stark architecture has not found aesthetic favour, but two years ago, a United Nations heritage organisation praised it.