When people moved into Wester Hailes in the early days, they faced many issues created by the lack of thought given to local infrastructure. Shops, schools, cafes, library, health care, police, playgrounds, public transport routes, all resources needed to support sense of community were jettisoned as costs were cut and housing density prioritised. Famously, the only infrastructure kept in the plans for the resulting estate were the huge areas allocated to car parks as the planners believed that by 1980, every household would have a car. In 1983, out of 8,000 car parking spaces, only 1,600 were in regular use: three quarters of the residents did not own a car!
Local residents quickly realised that support to develop the infrastructure would not be arriving any time soon from the local authority. If they wanted facilities for their neighbourhoods, they would have to provide these themselves. There were very few meetings places in the area and with all the buildings being new, there were no disused buildings that could be converted to community use. Attempts were made to persuade the authorities to create community flats but the plans got caught up in bureaucracy and disinterest of local council departments.
The community therefore took matters into their own hands and organised bases for their neighbourhoods. Park and Drive were already running activities for the people in their neighbourhood and recognised that with a building they could do much more. They identified a potential site and then sourced a hut that could be relocated into the area once the building had been made safe and useable.
The official opening was held in May 1981, complete with the selection of the Park and Drive’s Princesses, and a huge party. You can read more about the opening by clicking here on Sentinel May 1981. The committee put in place a range of activities including a parent and toddler group, cafe, bingo, discos, majorettes, and groups for children and young people. The PAD developed a particular focus on youth work including the Windfalls Project which opened the centre during weekends with an all night cafe for young people. Each community base received an urban aid allowance to help with the heating etc but the committees had to fundraise to keep the buildings open.
In 1987, a new playground was opened behind the PAD hut, with the official launch being presented by Garry Mackay and Neil Orr. The park included a multi- purpose sports court, a toddlers area and a garden. You can read more about this story by clicking here on Sentinel October 1987.