Thursday, 29 January 2009

Trump's Carbuncle, Glenrothes, Chimney Pot Park

Donald Trump's megalomaniac scheme for a golf resort (and a load of luxury houses) at Menie on the Aberdeenshire coast has won its first official accolade - in Prospect magazine's Carbuncle 2009 Awards. It romped home in the Worst Planning Decision category. Surely a unanimous decision: congratulations to all concerned.

The big award - for Scotland's most dismal place - goes to Glenrothes in Fife. The town centre is certainly grim, but whether Glenrothes is any worse than 15 or 20 other down-at-heel towns in Scotland is a moot point, and I must admit to some reservations about the whole idea.

With something like the Menie scheme you know exactly who to blame - and the Carbuncle is an excellent opportunity to name and shame the guilty men and women. But a whole town? The reasons why Glenrothes, Stranraer, Bathgate, Kilbirnie and umpteen others are down on their luck are complex and hard to fix: they are the victims of history, industrial restructuring, changing fashions and lifestyles and other factors. That is no excuse for inaction, lousy planning or the pervasive culture of pessimism and low expectations in so many small towns in Scotland, but we should recognise the powerful and unforgiving forces ranged against them. And I'm not sure that it helps places where morale and civic pride are so obviously low to subject them to public denigration.

On the other hand, if it calls attention to the fact that millions of people in the UK live in ugly, graceless, cheerless places - and that these conditions sap self-esteem and lower aspirations - it may be a price worth paying, especially if the award is followed up by practical action to make things better.

Talking about making things better, I saw Chimney Pot Park in Salford the other day - a very ingenious reworking of a grid of traditional Coronation Street terraces. It's an Urban Splash scheme (architects ShedKM) and it's a real treat. Follow the link below.