We’re featuring Calders on the Face book page this week as part of the ongoing project we have with the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland so it seemed a good opportunity to reflect on some of the events that shaped Calders’ story.
The area was built on relatively early compared to the rest of Wester Hailes with the construction of 537 prefab houses, creating a mini-estate by 1956. Calder Gardens, Calder Broadway, Calder Drive: street names that created the sound of a community. However, in 1966, the prefabs were bulldozed to make way for higher density housing erecting 1,300 houses and flats in the same area the prefab houses had occupied. The majority of the housing for the Calders was built using the Skarne System. This new form of building utilised prefabricated houses, but of a high quality when originally formulated. However, this quality was considerably diluted when introduced to Britain, with British contractors cutting costs through reducing the standard of insulation for the concrete panel system or just missing it out altogether. This led to housing in the Calders suffering from inadequate insulation and severe condensation, so severe that residents assumed the buildings were leaking as their floor coverings and even the floor boards started to rot from damp.
In 1981, the Sentinel saw a letter from the Director of Housing to the Director of Administration which raised the issue that there was a fundamental fault in the design of the concrete sub floor in ground floor Calders houses. The issue became one of many construction flaws that picked up by the McData report that detailed £5 million building faults across Wester Hailes. In addition to the lack of insulation, the report pointed out that the floor boards were untreated wood, vulnerable to damp conditions yet used where they were likely to experience wet conditions. You can read the Sentinel report in full here.
In 1986, concerns were raised about the safety of the three high rise blocks in the Calders after tenants reported recurring cracks on their walls and ceilings. Safety checks were scheduled as the Sentinel reported here.
When faced with a fight for better housing conditions, the Calders residents responded by forming strong action groups to campaign for change. When concerns were raised for example about the high rises, a public meeting on the issue was attended by over 250 Calders tenants. This led to the formation of the Calders High Rise Flats Action Group. Local residents also organised a wide range of community activities over the years. In 1981, the newly reformed Calders Community Centre committee discovered that the centre had lost its grant. They therefore had to raise the money needed to keep the centre going and set about fundraising through a series of events and projects which you can read more about here. In 1986, the Calders Gala committee organised a giant Beach Party to mark the 10th anniversary of the Calders Gala, transforming the area into a beach complete with sand, deckchairs, and ice cream as you can see here! The residents also wanted to see their area improved environmentally, especially as the canal formed part of their boundary. The Calders Neighbourhood Councils worked together to develop plans to transform the canal with the Water’s Edge Project. They could see the potential the canal offered not only for improving the immediate environment but for encouraging business and economic developments. You can read about their plans by clicking here on Sentinel April 1995.
There is currently a renewed focus on developing the Calders area with a series of initiatives taking place. The council are currently upgrading the landings of the high rise blocks to make them more secure and more welcoming. The police have been focusing on crime reduction in the area. There is also the Calders Community Garden where the Green Gym operates each week.