Stonehouse New Town 1972 to 1975
Scotland’s New Towns were developed under the direction of Development Corporations established and enabled by the New Towns Act of 1946.
The New Towns were seen as a part of the brave new culture of the post-war period.
There are five Scottish New Towns – East Kilbride, Glenrothes, Cumbernauld, Livingston and Irvine. The sixth planned New Town – Stonehouse – was ultimately to be a New Town too far.
The last of these Development Corporations, East Kilbride (which, ironically, was also the first Dev. Corp.), was wound up in 1996. This 50 year span was an amazing period of time for a government policy to survive, through various changes in government style and economic circumstances.
The factors leading to the proposal for a New Town at Stonehouse evolved over a number of years starting in 1963 with a Government white paper that recognised the potential of the area for industrial growth.
The designation order, bringing the New Town into existence, was published in 1972.
In January 1973 the task of planning the sixth New Town was given to the East Kilbride and Stonehouse Development Corporation and meetings were held in Stonehouse and Blackwood to involve the public in the planning process.
An Outline Plan, completed in April 1974, had the following key features:
- initial intake of 35,000 people – rising to a maximum of 70,000
- construction of 22,000 houses in new residential villages
- creation of four employment parks to provide 30,000 jobs
- development of four areas of ecological or scenic importance
- prioritisation of public transport – including the re-introduction of a train service
Gala Day, which had lapsed in 1964, was also revived as the New Town Festival ‘gala week’ in 1975.
Around this time, the Development Corporation grew concerned that Glasgow city council now wanted to concentrate on regenerating its urban areas, and was well aware of the effect this change in policy would have on investment in the Stonehouse project and, even as the New Town Growth Point sign was being erected with much pomp and ceremony, the writing was on the wall that the project was doomed to failure.
Strathclyde Regional Council were clearly opposed to yet another new town as its strategy now was to increase jobs and tackle urban deprivation in Glasgow rather than continue the drain on its population. The economic climate at the time reinforced these views as there was a risk of spreading investment too thinly across the region.
The Basic Plan was published in March 1975, but soon after that the Development Corporation began expressing its frustration at the delays, and the state of limbo that the New Town now found itself in. This despite the facts that, the site for the first factories had been prepared at Canderside, tenders for building these factories had already gone out and the first phase of housing was almost complete.
The first 96 houses (in Murray Drive) were completed in May 1976 but, within two days of the first tenants moving in, the government finally took the decision not to go ahead with the development. As a result, local building growth halted and then declined. Improvements in amenities and services to the area, many of which had been postponed for up to 10 years in anticipation of the new town, were delayed again.
An article in Local Government Studies by Roger Smith entitled Stonehouse – an obituary for a new town provides an interesting and detailed synopsis of the New Town thinking and the process as to how Stonehouse came to be the First New Town designated under the New Town Acts to be axed. The following link provides access to the article.
With the New Town (Stonehouse) Revocation of Designation and Winding Up Order 1977, the process of disposing of assets began; with land sold back to the former owner or on the open market, ground leases in residential properties sold to tenants, and the embryo Canderside industrial estate sold to the Scottish Development Agency. The SDA was tasked with continuing the development of this once important part of the new town strategy – but it too came to nothing.
There is a longer article on Stonehouse New Town in Newsletter No. 15. SHG also have a copy of the short promotional DVD made to promote the New Town development.