From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes


The history of Wester Hailes has been one of almost continuous change. The construction of the housing itself took around seven years (make that ten if you include the Calders) which meant that for many of the early tenants Wester Hailes was just  like one massive, expanding building site.

Then there was a new phase in which, bit by bit, the much-needed facilities for the huge population were added: a shopping centre, police station, train station, council offices etc. At the same time, a wide range of community-led initiatives were also springing up when and where land was available.

In some cases (e.g. the police and train stations) this took so long to happen that it actually overlapped with the start of the demolition of the worst of the original housing and the launching of major new initiatives centred on the provision of new homes to replace them.

The process of regeneration has continued right up to the present and the two photos below illustrate just how radical some of those changes to the physical aspect of the estate have been.

The picture above was taken in 1990 from a bedroom in what was then Wester Hailes Drive and shows the fire brigade dealing with a fire in a nearby block, attracting plenty of local interest in the process. Beyond the four storey buildings, one of the multi-storey blocks which also formed part of the Wester Hailes Drive area can be seen on the right hand side of the photo. Note also the lack of cars in the large areas of parking in the central square and the boarded up flats on the ground floors opposite.

Now, fast forward to the present day. This second photo, believe it or not, is of the identical view taken from the same bedroom window last weekend. All the drab four storey blocks have been demolished and the bleak open spaces have gone to be replaced by low rise houses, semi-detatched or terraced, each with their own private gardens.

This scheme was constructed by Prospect in 1996 and is only one of a number of new build projects, for rent or for sale, which housing associations and private builders have built on various brownfield sites in Wester Hailes following the major programme of demolitions undertaken by the City Council in the 1990s. Incidentally, in the far right hand corner, on the horizon, you can just make out the profile of one of the last three multis, located in Hailesland, which still remain standing.

It may have taken a long time, it might still be ongoing, but the changes to the area over the years have led to great improvements in the quality of housing and of the environment of Wester Hailes.

Many thanks to Sandra for these excellent pics!


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