‘Carbuncle’ housing in line for top award

West Burn Lane, St Andrews.
West Burn Lane, St Andrews.

A housing development in the centre of historic St Andrews has been shortlisted for a architectural award – but it’s been slated by local groups.

This week the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) announced a 24-strong shortlist for its 2015 awards, including West Burn Lane in St Andrews.

The site had a contentious planning history, with two previous failed bids for developments, before the plan for six houses, four maisonettes and four apartments was granted permission in 2013.

At the time, St Andrews Community Council and St Andrews Preservation Trust objected strongly to the design – and both are still adamant the development is not in keeping with character of the historic town centre.

“The only award this should be shortlisted for is Carbuncle of the Year,” said Howard Greenwell, chairman of the community council.

“If this wins any other prize, then the architecture profession will go down several notches in my opinion as they seem to be completely dismissive of, and ignorant of, conservation issues of the town.”

Commenting on West Burn Lane, the RIAS said it followed the town’s historic ‘rigg’ pattern and was “gracefully inserted within one of Scotland’s most historic urban environments”.

Rigg refers to a long narrow property or plot fronting on to the main street which was the normal unit of ownership in medieval Scottish towns.

Mr Greenwell said the RIAS was correct in saying that it followed the ‘lang rigg’ traditions in that the whole development had been “shoehorned into what was once a single garden – long and narrow”.

He added: “There is nothing whatsoever ‘graceful’ about this development.”

He said the beige brick, roof materials and design were completely at odds with the traditions of St Andrews and the surrounding buildings.

Graham Wynd, chairman of St Andrews Preservation Trust, said the trust had no objection to contemporary design in the centre of St Andrews and that much of the development along West Burn Lane was acceptable.

However, he said the brickwork was inappropriate, lifeless and “almost industrial and should be replaced by stone”.

But the main objection was that the development extended out the lane and “protrudes too far into Greenside Place”.

He said: “This is a case of greedy developers trying to get as much for their investment as they can by extending it further than they should have gone.”

Mr Wynd also described the large picture windows and balconies as “completely insensitive”.

As for the judges’ comments about the housing fitting in with the rigg, Mr Wynd said: “It’s long and rectangular and that is where the similarity begins and ends.”

Three of the four townhouses – each with a price tag of £875,000 – are all that remain unsold of the 14 properties in the development.