The problem with Cumbernauld town centre is neglect; ‘Crap Towns’ co-editor speaks out

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 15:46 on 21 August 2013.
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26-06-2013 - By Scott Campbell (+44) 0774 296 870 - Cumbernauld Town Centre; Picture shows Cumbernauld Town Centre close-up, as viewed from A8011.
Cumbernauld town centre came 8th in ugliest town centre poll. Picture: Cumbernauld Media.

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ONE of the faces behind the ‘Crap Towns Returns’ website which seen Cumbernauld town centre voted as the eighth most ugliest town centre in the United Kingdom has spoken out about the problems facing Cumbernauld town centre after it was voted the eighth ugliest town centre in the United Kingdom.

Sam Jordison, one of the co-editors of the Crap Towns book has written in the Guardian newspaper about how the main problem surrounding Cumbernauld town centre is a lack of regular maintenance.

Writing in the Guardian, Jordison says, “The real problem is neglect, not bad design.”

Jordison’s comments follow a recent poll on his website in which readers were polled on which town had the ‘crappiest’ town centre.

The options in the poll were Birmingham, Bracknell, Camberley, Coventry, Cumbernauld, Gateshead, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Luton, and Slough, with Cumbernauld starting off in third place and finishing in eighth, with one-hundred votes.

In the newspaper, Jordison explains, “Hemel Hempstead is the ugliest town in Britain, according to a recent poll on my site,, providing people with a rare chance to point out that not everything is glorious in our homeland. 

“More than 3,000 people voted – and almost a third of them for poor old Hemel, knocking Luton and Slough into second and third place respectively.”

He adds: “Of course online polls aren't entirely scientific. Hemel isn't the only ugly place I've been. Not so long ago I visited Cumbernauld – the one place capable of making me think maybe Hemel isn't so bad after all. Go to Cumbernauld on a rainy day and you'll start feeling jealous of all those people pootling round the endless roundabouts of Hemel; at least they've got something to occupy their time.”

The poll sparked a barrage of online abuse towards Cumbernauld town centre and follows the publication of the ‘Crap Towns: the 50 Worst Places to Live in the UK’ book, an infamous book which sold in excess of 100,000 copies when it was first published in 2003.

The original 2003 book was dubbed "the Doomsday Book of misery", and the editors behind the text say it will return this year “by popular demand”.

Cumbernauld didn’t place in the original poll on the Crap Towns website, which asked visitors why they felt that their towns were “crap”, asking them to state their reasons on either Architects; Tories; Youth; Drugs; New Labour; Tesco; or, Buckfast.

The full results seen Architects voted for 513 times; Tories, 347; Youth, 266; Drugs, 190; New Labour, 165; Tesco, 163; and, Buckfast, 54.

A couple of weeks later the ‘ugliest UK town centre’ poll went online and seen the full results come out at Hemel Hempstead with 785 votes, Luton with 592, Slough with 352, Bracknell with 338, Birmingham with 312, Camberley with 311, Coventry with 295, Cumbernauld with 100, Hatfield with 51, and,  Gateshead with 48 votes.

Jordison adds, “There's also the fact that ugliness is in the eye of the beholder. If I'd run this survey 50 years ago, it's possible that most correspondents would have been writing in about the horrors of the Euston Arch and that great sooty mess of St Pancras station beside it. Architectural taste runs in cycles and we seem to despise the creations of our grandparents' generation the most.

“At the moment, the pet hate is the "concrete monstrosity". My fear is that in our eagerness to replace such excesses of the 1960s, we may well demolish the equivalent of St Pancras. In fact, we're already doing it. We've lost the stunning Get Carter car park, which loomed over the centre of Gateshead for many years and featured so prominently in the famous Michael Caine film. Sure it was falling apart, but at least it was interesting. And what have they replaced it with? A giant, featureless mall centred around a Tesco. Will losing the brutalist bus station in Preston really improve things? Or will it mean losing a potential landmark of the future?”

Jordison then continues on to compare Cumbernauld to Coventry; writing of Coventry: “The ring roads in most towns do as the name implies, and circle the outskirts – in Coventry it cuts right through the middle. It's a terrible noisy, polluting mess and the only way to improve it is to get rid of it. Some of Coventry, however, with a little more love, could be stunning,” adding: “The real problem is neglect, not bad design.”

Jordison – who is the author of Sod That: 103 Things Not to Do Before You Die argues that, “The same is true of Cumbernauld”, adding that, “Architecturally the giant concrete megastructure that makes up the centre is potentially as impressive as the Barbican in London,” before going on to contend that the problem with Cumbernauld town centre is neglect.

He said: “What's the difference? A fortune has been spent keeping the Barbican in good repair, and people spend a fortune to live there. Cumbernauld – although there were some well-meaning attempts at regeneration during the New Labour years – has suffered decades of disrepair and deterioration. I'm told that people in the 1960s loved the place – and that wasn't just because tastes were different back then. It was because it was much more pleasant there than it is now.”

Jordison concludes: “It would be wrong to consign any of them to the dustbin, even if some of them need a damn good clean up.”

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