Cumbernauld Town Centre
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26-06-2013 - By Scott Campbell (+44) 0774 296 870 - Cumbernauld Town Centre; Picture shows Cumbernauld Town Centre, from outside North Bus Stop.

Welcome

It’s the mega-structure which looms over Cumbernauld; can be seen from miles away and has been critically acclaimed and heavily criticised. Yes, its Cumbernauld town centre; a building which divides architects, designers, landscapers, planners, residents and visitors, alike. 




26-06-2013 - By Scott Campbell (+44) 0774 296 870 - Cumbernauld Town Centre; Picture shows Cumbernauld Town Centre close-up, as viewed from A8011 footbridge.

Utopian vision

Built on a harsh rugged hillside, planners quickly released that their ‘utopian’ New Town needed something to make life easier for residents and be a central mapping point for the New Town – they chose to make Cumbernauld town centre that central point; a mega-structure that would house everything from communal areas, businesses, offices, flats, health services, leisure services and areas to encourage social cohesion. As with the rest of Cumbernauld, the town centre was part of a larger social experiment. 

An ever-changing central point

Even to this day Cumbernauld town centre stands as the town’s main focal point; dominating the landscape, engulfing the A8011 motorway – which runs directly underneath the complex – and housing most amenities, with additional amenities scattered around the centre complex. The centre has been compared to nothing but a house for wind tunnels, and a concrete monster on stilts. 

Cumbernauld town centre, however, was always controversial and the plans were ever changing. Despite this, though, Cumbernauld was the first town in the whole of the United Kingdom to build and open a shopping mall; with the town being home to the world’s very first multi-purpose, multi-levelled, single structure shopping centre. 

A world first  

As a world first, the centre needed a world-class architect - Geoffrey Copcutt was that architect. Under Geoffrey’s eye, construction of Cumbernauld town centre commenced in 1955, with the building initially hailed as an example of Utopian Engineering, despite the contractors – Logan Construction – going bankrupt during construction, leaving sparsely detailed structural engineering plans.

After the complex was constructed, Cumbernauld became UK tourist hotspot. Architects, designers, engineers, planners and students all visited the town in large numbers, with the Development Corporation laying on tours of the town for the thousands of official visitors who came to cast their eye over Cumbernauld New Town. 

Utopia sours as structure crumbles

However, where success was shining on Cumbernauld, disaster 
would soon follow – and disaster came in the form of major structural flaws in the main pillars which held up the Cumbernauld town centre penthouse apartments; flaws which forced the tenants to move out of the building, dubbed by the Guardian’s Terence Bendixson, in 1967, as a building constructed with “cheap local bricks”.

Then, in 1971 Cumbernauld town centre boasted that size was everything; with the New Town being home to that largest supermarket in Scotland, with work on the centre’s second phase then getting underway, which was later followed by the construction of another department store, in 1975, which became the third phase of Cumbernauld town centre; a phase which housed Woolco and two levels of underground car parking. .

Then, again, structural flaws in Cumbernauld town centre’s construction saw part of the Golden Eagle Hotel collapse; forcing the complete demolition of the hotel, in the mid-1970s, which was followed by the completion of the centre’s phase 4, in 1981.

Cheerio Corporation, hello North Lanarkshire!

Nineteen-ninety-six then seen the New Town’s corpie wound up. The Cumbernauld Development Corporation wound up in 1996, leaving all control to the incoming North Lanarkshire Council and Campsies Centres Cumbernauld Ltd. The Corporation’s liquidation meant that Cumbernauld town centre was sold off, and purchased by a shopping management group, with phase 3 demolished in 1996; and, 2001 seen the rear outdoor section of phase 1 demolished – the phases upon which the new Antonine shopping centre was built.

Like it or loath it, Cumbernauld town centre is remarkable in its history; its ability to stand the test of time, achieve so much and be criticised just as much. However, the structure was very much a product of its time and a victim of its own success, with a number of flaws continually found with the structure, which seen demolitions, parts of the structure refurbished, with businesses and visitors alike all complaining that the centre’s walkways were nothing more than wind tunnels which deterred many people from visiting the complex.

An award winning centre

Cumbernauld town centre has won awards for its ingenuity but has also taken flak; winning Cumbernauld the carbuncle award twice, and featuring on Channel 4’s ‘Demolition’ programme – where it was voted as the worst building in Britain. Then, a major refurbishment programme attempted to change Cumbernauld’s prospects, which seen the Antonine Shopping Centre opened in July 2007, on the old phase 1 area of Cumbernauld town centre.

Two-thousand-and-six seen the construction of the Antonine Shopping Centre get underway; a shopping centre which is now worth £40 million and has 350,000 square feet (33,000 m2) of retail space. The centre was opened on Wednesday 6 June 2007, to a blaze of press cameras and live TV coverage, with the Antonine also expected to increase spending in the town by 84% - approximately £175 million. 

Today and tomorrow's vision

At present, Cumbernauld town centre is owned by three separate firms; Coal Pensions Ltd own Cumbernauld Shopping Centre, The Hamilton Portfolio Ltd own Cumbernauld town centre; and London & Regional Properties own the Antonine Shopping Centre. Plans are also underway to see Cumbernauld town centre’s bus stops, under the town centre, on the A8011, refurbished, with a Local Plan being consulted upon, at present, by North Lanarkshire Council.