THE capital of the Highlands has been placed on a shortlist to be shamed as the ugliest city in the UK.
Inverness is among the contenders in the first UK-wide Carbuncle awards as judges mocked its “monstrous” city centre design and “mushrooming suburban sprawl”.
The panel have also nominated Methil, in Fife, for its “hulking Soviet-style” power station that sits on its docks, just one year after nearby Glenrothes topped the list.
And the Carbuncle award is now even less coveted after it expanded from Scotland to take in the whole of the UK.
Inverness will be head-to-head with Ayr, two-time winner Cumbernauld, Dalkeith in Midlothian, Wishaw in Lanarkshire, and ruling champion Glenrothes.The current English nominees include Bradford, after an aborted shopping centre left a giant muddy crater in the city centre, and Salford for its “placenessless”.
Mushrooming suburban sprawl
A spokesman for the Carbuncle Awards said: “Inverness has been called the fastest-growing city in Europe – but at what price?
“It has been dubbed ‘Tulloch town’ by critics due to that developer’s dominance over an ever-mushrooming suburban sprawl.
“In addition, the historic centre has been blighted by box-like monstrosities dating back to the 1960s.”
In particular judges, among them fashion designer Wayne Hemingway, took a dislike to the twin concrete tower blocks that loom imposingly over the city.
The former HQ of Highlands and Island Enterprise, now flats, and the Crofters Commission, were famously slated by Bill Bryson in Notes From a Small Island, who said that they “blot the town centre beyond any hope of redemption.”
Alex Graham, deputy provost of Inverness, admitted that some of the city’s buildings were “unsightly” but denied that it was among the UK’s ugliest.
He said: “It is unfortunate we have inherited some particularly unsightly buildings that were put up in the 1960s near the River Ness.
“Sadly they have spoiled what should be a terrific view of the city’s skyline.
“Despite this, Inverness is an attractive city with tremendous charm and we have recently spent £7million transforming the old town.
“The population has continued to grow throughout the recession and that just wouldn’t happen if it really was a dismal place to live.”
As well as Inverness, the panel has said that decades of deindustrialisation had blighted Methil.
However Arthur Robertson, an SNP councillor, said that work was being done to reverse the fortunes of the Fife town.
He said: “The power plant is not the most attractive of buildings but it is planned to be removed in the very near future.
“We are working hard on regenerating the seafront and I’m confident the negative headlines will be reversed in years to come.”
John Glenday, at the architectural magazine Urban Realm, which runs the Carbuncle Awards, said that they were a “force for good and a real motivator for change”.
He said: “Our agenda is not to kick a town when it’s down, but to offer constructive help and advice.
“We want to help turn cities around and for them to use the Carbuncles as a springboard for future growth.
“The point is to highlight locations which have potential that local leaders are failing to exploit.
“Truly depressing places are the ones stifled by a lack of attention, creativity and ambition.”
Members of the public are being encouraged to vote on the award’s website, with the winner being decided later this year.
In 2009 Glenrothes, Fife, was slated for its “drab and dismal” town centre and “woeful” 1980s shopping centre.