Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 16:24 GMT on Tuesday, 13th November 2012.
Cumbernauld Shopping Centre manager hits out at town’s negative image

Picture is copyright of Cumbernauld Media/ Scott Campbell.

CUMBERNAULD Shopping Centre manager Robert Barr has been telling STV Local of the reasons why he thinks the perceptions of the town centre being abysmal and negative are wrong.


The retail boss has hit out at the negativity surrounding the town centre’s image - claiming more people should start a business there, as the climate is “perfect”.


Robert Barr, who runs one part of the Cumbernauld Shopping Centre, was speaking as North Lanarkshire Council continues a consultation into shaping the future of the area for the next ten years.


Mr Barr blames the Urban Realm magazine, who run the Carbuncle awards, as the main reason behind the area’s image problem.


The magazine recognizes “the most dismal places and spaces” in Scotland’s towns and has given Cumbernauld the dubious accolade on two occasions in recent years.


Talking to STV Local, Mr Barr said: “I used to be in architecture, and I had never heard of the magazine which gives out these awards.


“There are lots of different issues here, but not different to shopping centres up and down the country. The issues that face us are equally facing every other shopping centre no matter where you are.


“Cumbernauld is a good place to live and visit; there is no question about that.


“The people are the salt of the earth. There is very little crime, virtually no vandalism in the town, yet it is constantly decried by this magazine about this small part of the town centre.”


Mr Barr, who for the past 20 years, has been the manager of the ground floor section of the complex, between Argos and Home Bargains went on to dismiss many of the points raised by businesses and shoppers, adding that he is positive about the centre’s future.


“Like everybody else, we would like to be able to bring larger stores, more famous stores, to the centre,” he said.


“That has always been the aim and we have attempted to do that.


“But the climate at the moment going forward, is not great for the large companies. They are not expanding.


“The success of local independent retailers will also benefit us in the long run.


“Business here is concerned with lack of footfall. Trading is very difficult.


“The rents are very appropriate.


“It is a good time to start up a business here.”


Parts of Cumbernauld Shopping Centre not managed by Mr Barr, such as the area next to the Royal Bank of Scotland branch and the Moriarty’s pub, are dominated by empty shopping units - a problem experienced across the country as a result of the recession.


Mr Barr says he has seven empty units out of 70 in his section and argues the area is “a joy to be in”.


He said: “My shopping centre is not old fashioned, it is not tired. It is bright and cheery.


“The only part that holds the place down is, perhaps, the original part of the town centre which is what everybody talks about.


“It is a very small part of the entire town centre.”


Mr Barr’s comments are timely as North Lanarkshire Council begin asking businesses and residents to help form a new town centre action plan, which will determine the future of Cumbernauld for the next ten years on issues like development opportunities, accessibility and business support.


Mr Barr has attended meetings on the action plan. He said: “It is all very positive and there are many people interested in taking the town centre forward.”

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