LONDON // It is no surprise the Carbuncle Award for "the most dismal town in Scotland" is not one that people appreciate winning. Except for the citizens of Denny, that is. Much to the displeasure of the local council, townsfolk actually lobbied to be awarded the prize this week after nobody in the town that actually won it - John o'Groats - would agree to accept it.
Indeed, no other town that has had the dubious distinction of being singled out as the winner of the Carbuncle has agreed to accept it since its inception 10 years ago. The Carbuncles were established to provoke debate about the poor quality of development in many of the UK's towns and cities. This year, Denny, a town in Stirlingshire of about 20,000, came second in the judging by the design magazine Urban Realm, but a local campaign group asked to receive the award to highlight demands for redevelopment of their town centre.
So, this week, the "plook [pimple] on a plinth", as it is known in the vernacular, was duly handed over to representatives of Denny's Walk Around the Block group. The group sought the title to highlight their campaign for the redevelopment of a derelict block of low-rise apartments and shops in the town centre. A planned regeneration scheme worth £15 million (Dh86m) was put on hold by Falkirk Council in the spring because of the recession and then, in June, the council promised to demolish the eyesore within two years.
Brian McCabe, one of the campaigners, told the BBC that residents wanted to get rid of the block long before that. "It's a blot on the landscape," he said. Sharon Tait, a member of the group who accepted the award on behalf of the town, added: "It's a lovely town, but as soon as prospective house buyers drive down the main street, the deal is off. "By accepting this award, we want to tap into Urban Realm's design expertise and approach Falkirk Council to see what can be done."
Craig Martin, the leader of Falkirk Council, accepts that the block is a blight on the town, but makes no secret of the fact that he is furious that the campaigners have accepted the award. He said the offending buildings would be demolished next summer, adding: "I'm absolutely astonished that an individual would actually ask for this award to be given. "It's an award nobody wants. John o'Groats are clearly offended and united in their refusal to accept it. Unfortunately, there are a few individuals in Denny who are keen to have it, regardless of the feelings of the wider community."
John Glenday, an Urban Realm reporter who handed over the award on Monday, said this interest in the trophy was unprecedented. "This is the first time in the history of the Carbuncle that anyone has stepped up to the plate to collect the trophy," he said. "It is also the first time we have been solicited by the residents of one of our chosen towns to take up ownership of the trophy. "We have always been at pains to stress that although, on the face of it, this trophy is an unwelcome sight, it should in fact be harnessed as a force for good."