Miscellaneous - New Town
Stonehouse New Town
On August 1973 Stonehouse was designated to be the next ‘New Town’,
projected to receive a population from Glasgow in excess of 35,000,
with the likelihood of an increase up to 70,000. This project would
include, 25 primaries, 6 secondary schools and the reintroduction of
the railway line to Stonehouse.
The purpose of new towns was to accommodate the population living in
sub-standard and overcrowded conditions in the cities. Despite the
decrease in Scotland’s population the number of households have been
ever increasing. It was believed by Government, that until the social
and environmental conditions improved in the urban areas, the
population would continue to leave the cities, thus the need for new
towns, such as East Kilbride, Cumbernauld and Livingston.
With this in mind for Stonehouse, the East Kilbride and Stonehouse
Development Corporation was formed to create a plan to develop
Stonehouse. However, when the newly formed Strathclyde Regional Council
was formed it reviewed the plan and decided that the scheme was no
longer needed. It was their view that Glasgow should retain its
population with industry directed elsewhere. Thus in 1977, an Act of
Parliament dedesignated Stonehouse as a New Town. However only the
first phase of the project was carried out with the building of the
Murray Drive Estate.
When consultation began with the community on the New Town proposal
they met with mixed feelings, though 80% did vote in favour of the New
Town, through a referendum at the time. The ‘carrot’ of industry,
better leisure and shopping facilities was a welcome and attractive
proposition, but at what cost? Stonehouse had always been a small,
thriving close knit community, with many hard working organisations,
working together in providing the village with many recreational
pursuits and community support
groups. One of the villages attractions to potential new residents
(‘incomers’!) is the community spirit and character. The New Town, in
my opinion, would have threatened this ‘community spirit’.
Many households and farms would have been compulsory purchased to build
roads and housing developments. If we think our village is suffering
from traffic congestion now, what would the effects on our
‘conservation area’ and natural environment have been if a population
of 70,000 were to have descended on our village. And what of our Gala
Day, Agricultural Fair and Christmas
Festival, would they have still
been here? I doubt it. Do we really want another ‘roundabout city’ like
East Kilbride? The village is constantly under threat of suburban
development in what is an area of outstanding natural beauty. The
tranquil winding river Avon is freedom on our doorstep, an education
and haven for our children to learn from, and explore.
Stonehouse has the potential to expand and prosper within, developing
our industry and residential capacity without having to expand into our
greenbelt. With the first phase of the bypass complete the village must
now look forward to redevelop the village centre and Conservation area,
in creating an attractive location for potential residents and small
businesses to locate themselves. Above all we must endeavour to
preserve our village’s community spirit and character, and provide
future generations with a sound economic base and healthy environment
to live in.
In 1996 Stonehouse’s main employer was the hospital providing work for
548 staff, with around 150 living in the village. Unemployment is
generally in line with most other villages of a similar size.
Unfortunately, apprenticeships are almost a thing of the past with many
children opting to go to College or University for further education.
In an era of large discount stores, supermarkets and purpose built
shopping centres, many small rural traders are suffering from this new
era in ‘out of town’ shopping facilities. Many shops have come and gone
in Stonehouse over the years, of which the late Harry McFarlane could
name every last one! One of my favourites, and I expect for many others
would be ‘Graces’ (Hamilton) in the Trongate. Trading in household
goods and bric-a-brac, the shop is a treasure trove of this, that and
the other. As a child my memories of shops are confined to just one;
‘Susie’s Sweetie Shop’ (Susan Sorbie). It was situated at the now
demolished tenement, across from the Co-operative in King Street. This
shop is my only memory of pre-decimalisation, spending my ‘thrupenny
bit’ on lucky bags, liquorice, sherbet dips and parma violets. This
shop was not only a great loss to myself, but to hundreds of other
children who kept our local dentist in great demand.
There have been many environmental, economic and structural changes to
our village over recent years. Primarily a commuter village, housing
developments at Murray Drive, West Mains, East Mains, Naismith Court,
Muirhead, Crow Road, Weavers Court, Bramble Bank, and Boghall etc.,
have provided housing for an ever increasing population. Unfortunately,
leisure facilities are few in comparison to other towns nearby. Parks
proposed for Patrickholm and West Mains were never completed, and we
have seen over the past 30 years a gradual decay in the condition of
our once majestic Public Park. In days
of old the park was the holiday
and day trippers’ destination for travellers from all over Lanarkshire.
This popular tourist attraction of the past has sadly been allowed to
lose its attractive and colourful appearance. Due to vandalism we have
lost the bandstand tearoom, the public toilets, the boating pond and
seating throughout the park. This plague of vandalism has also resulted
in severe damage to the fountain commemorating
opening of the park
in May 1925 by Alexander Hamilton. This monument however has since been
restored after a campaign led primarily by the Heritage Group.
Despite this, we have seen some advances in the last few years by way
of a new all play facility and new investment to improve the overall
appearance of the park. The park with all its problems, still commands
one of the most scenic views of the Avon Valley.
Probably the most common recreational pursuit is ‘television’,
transmitting to 99% of the population. Whether this form of
communication media is good or bad is open to debate, but what is
certain, is that , linked with the video, TV has revolutionised home
entertainment to the point of being an addiction. In an era of vast
technological advances, computers have become an integral part of
everyday life, with continuing demands to obtain the latest technology
putting greater financial constraints on society. We appear to be in an
every inceasing capitalist society where power, possession and wealth
have taken precedence over happiness, health and contentment.
Fortunately Stonehouse has a thriving social calendar, and a host of
clubs and societies providing a wide range of support and leisure
pursuits in providing alternative activities and opportunities.
Stonehouse is also fortunate to have a well attended and organised Community Council, which
deals with many topical issues, and represents
the village with its grievances and recommendations. Like so many
voluntary organisations it is a thankless task, where members of the
community give up their personal time to fight for the rights of the
residents of Stonehouse in providing a better environment for us all to
live and work in.
Stonehouse like everywhere else suffers from ever increasing crime, in
particular drugs related crimes, youth disorder, vandalism and
violence. Stonehouse has been easy prey in some respects, due to its
rural setting, with no manned police facility in the village. Crime has
always been present as far back as records show, but what is alarming
is the nature of the crimes taking place today, previously rarely heard
of. Social behaviour, even in the past 10-15 years has changed,
regarding alcohol in particular. Children will always venture to
experience what they are told not to do, and always have, but moral
attitudes and respect for the law has changed.
One characteristic of Stonehouse which still prevails, is that of the
unfortunate label given to new residents, referred to as ‘incomers’.
This long established custom probably dates to the Victorian period
when the village was very much self contained with large families
marrying within the community. Many then and now feel they have to be
several generations resident in the village before becoming a fully
pledged member of the community. It would appear today however that the
‘incomers’ now out number the locals due to an expanding community both
in terms of size and mobility in the work force. It is also my opinion
that of the organisations present today most are being advanced and
organised by residents who have recently become established in the
community. There is no doubt Stonehouse future lies in its inhabitants
and both ‘incomer’ and ‘local’ have their role to play in
advancing our economic, recreational and moral endeavours.