It is the place that gave birth to showbiz legends Fran and Anna, was home to actor Ian Bannen, inspired musicians Hue and Cry, and even educated Pop Idol winner Michelle McManus.

So, could Coatbridge in Lanarkshire really be all that bad?

In a predictable show of defiance, a resounding "no" was hollered by townsfolk yesterday, on learning that the area is a leading contender to win a notorious Carbuncle of the Year award.

The Lanarkshire town is a nominee for Plook on the Plinth award, the dubious honour given by Prospect, the architecture magazine, to the town deemed Scotland's most dismal. If Coatbridge wins, it would mean a hat-trick for Lanarkshire. Cumbernauld and Airdrie, nearby, have already been reluctant recipients of the title.

Among the many rallying to the defence of Coatbridge yesterday was Elsie Gordon, who was born in the town more than 70 years ago.

She said: "It is nowhere near as bad as some areas. We've had some lovely granite slabs put down in the Main Street that came all the way from India. Coatbridge grew up as an industrial town, and I've seen a lot of changes for the better in recent years." The pensioner did concede, however, that there remained the odd architectural faux pas. "See that fountain," she said, pointing at a structure at the end of Main Street: "It's called the Whitelaw fountain. It's all off-centre and looks ridiculous because it was moved there, and a roundabout put where it used to be."

The town even has its own band of loyal tourists. Among them are Sheila and Pat Hammond from Dublin.

The couple spent yesterday window-shopping around local estate agents, after being bowled over by the town's red sandstone buildings.

Mrs Hammond, 40, said: "The buildings here are unique. I'd love to get my hands on one. Coatbridge is a fantastic place, and the people are lovely."

Her husband Pat, 40, who has holidayed in Coatbridge every year throughout his life, agreed. "People make a place what it is, and the people here are brilliant. But I've also seen a lot of physical changes in the last few years. There seems to be more investment coming into the area."

Also leaping to the town's defence was Coatbridge-born musician and writer Pat Kane, best known as one half of 1980s band Hue and Cry.

Describing his hometown as a "dear green place", he said: "There are areas in Coatbridge, like Blairhill and Drumpelier, which are as pretty, tree-lined and as historic as any area of Hampstead or Merchiston."

Louisa Mahon, brand manager of the Lanarkshire Branding and Communications Project, whose aim is to convince investors, the media and public of the area's merits, said: "Coatbridge doesn't deserve this nomination. It has a huge amount of open spaces around it that make it special."

Elaine Smith, MSP for Coatbridge, criticised the awards as a "cheap publicity shot" by the organisers.

She said: "The Prospect people should get out of their ivory tower, have a look at the real Coatbridge and stop insulting us."