Cumbernauld United

Cumbernauld is a town of differences: geographically, politically, economically, and culturally; but there is one thing that unites the town and that is the belief that Cumbernauld deserves a better town centre. Now one local group are spearheading a new wave of community action, prompted by Cumbernauld yet again being nominated for an Urban Realm Carbuncle Award, given annually to the one town deemed to be the worst in Scotland. Cumbernauld Environmental Society recently held a conference in Cumbernauld College, with the main aim of driving forward positive change in Cumbernauld Town Centre. The event also aimed to contribute to the ongoing North Lanarkshire Council Town Centre Action Plan, with a new phase of public consultation recently launched to hear opinions on the Town Centre, what is positive about it, and what could be improved.

The conference, independently chaired by local Rotarian Professor Frank Clark, brought together a number of key stakeholders who can play an important part in any Town Centre improvement works, including the managers of Cumbernauld Shopping Centre and the Antonine Shopping Centre, and representatives of North Lanarkshire Council, including senior planning officials and Councillors Chadha, Graham, Goldie, Irvine, Johnston, and Muir; as well as Cumbernauld and Kilsyth MSP Jamie Hepburn, and local MP Gregg McClymont. A number of the Councillors in attendance are also on the board of Campsies Centre Cumbernauld Ltd, an arms-length subsidiary of North Lanarkshire Council who were given several million pounds by Cumbernauld Development Corporation, prior to its winding up in 1996, to facilitate the development of Cumbernauld Town Centre. Also in attendance was John Glenday, Editor of Urban Realm magazine, to see firsthand for himself the efforts that are taking place, and the desire that exists, to give the people of Cumbernauld a Town Centre to be proud of and one that reflects Cumbernauld’s stature as the eighth largest town in Scotland.

Attendees were shown presentations by Eric Hislop, Head of Regeneration and Infrastructure at North Lanarkshire Council; Professor Gordon Murray, Head of School for Architecture and Design at Strathclyde University (whose presentation can be found transcribed here); and Councillor Tom Kerr, Provost of West Lothian Council, who was instrumental in the redevelopment of Livingston Town Centre. The three presentations showed what work was taking place at the moment, what could potentially be done with the existing Town Centre structure, and what could possibly be done to create a great Town Centre.

Open conversation acknowledged the difficulties around split ownership, with three private companies having control over the Town Centre, one of which is currently in administration; and of having Central Way flowing through the Town Centre. Much discussion also centred on the realistic possibility of being able to take drastic action to deliver a wholesale redevelopment of the Town Centre in the current economic climate. However, the discussion remained positive with a number of suggestions aired including a larger use for entertainment and leisure, creating more of an evening economy and increasing footfall during quieter periods; and for work to take place to improve the look of the Town Centre access points, including the bus stances, as well as the overall external appearance, to make the Town Centre much more welcoming.

As an initial event, and one which looked to build a foundation, the conference was unanimously well received, with interest and hope that future discussions could facilitate a number of positive improvements and the delivery of a Town Centre which the people of Cumbernauld could be proud of. A follow-up event is in the process of being planned, with greater community involvement, with details to follow at a later date.

CES Town Centre Conference

The event also generated some positive publicity for the town with articles published in the Cumbernauld News, Evening Times, and on the Urban Realm website.

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