From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes

The Drive Forward

In August 1996, the first residents of Dumbeg Park got the keys to their new homes.  58 new houses and flats were being built by the Wester Hailes Community Housing Association in an area that used to be part of the old Wester Hailes Drive.  The completion of the first homes was another landmark in the transformation of this area.

It was a transformation that took years to complete.  The Park and Drive area along with the other local areas that had high rise blocks faced multiple problems caused by building faults and design defects associated with the Bison Development design.  From the beginning there were dampness problems and the fabric of the high rises quickly started to deteriorate.  After the publication of the McData report in 1982 that detailed all the faults needing rectifying, residents campaigned for improvements as the council tried to work out how it could afford to pay the £5 million bill for required repairs.  Some remedial work was completed but it was a constant battle for residents to keep this high on the council’s priorities and at the same time, people faced the constant concern that the blocks had a limited shelf life, with similar types of construction being demolished elsewhere in the country.

In 1991, the Sentinel featured a report by the Holmes Jack Partnership that identified several structural and design faults which were estimated to cost about £40 million pounds to put right.  Tenants agreed that the blocks needed to be demolished and were concerned that this process might take too long, leaving them living in deteriorating conditions.

By February 1992, discussion about demolition was still on-going as can be seen in this report.  Everyone seemed to agree that the high rise blocks had to be demolished but it wasn’t until the District Council’s housing committee meeting in March of 1992 that a report recommending demolition was acted on.  By 1992, 3 Hailesland blocks had been demolished, another 3 Hailesland blocks had been refurbished, the 7 Westburn blocks were nearly empty and ready for demolition, and the high rises in Calders had received refurbishment work.  The Park and Drive residents must have felt it was about time their situation was given some priority.  Eventually in 1994, only 20 years after they were built, the 8 Park and Drive high rises were demolished.

There was also agreement that work needed to be carried out on the homes in Wester Hailes Drive and a £3 million package of improvement works was planned.  This was nearly derailed by political disagreement within the council, but moves to stop the work were fortunately defeated.  The work would mean that 200 homes would receive new windows, door entry systems and shared back greens.  At the same time, 60 additional homes which were now owned by the Wester Hailes Community Housing Association were to be completely refurbished.  The buildings were repainted, and the entrances were refurbished.  Kitchens replacements and new bathroom units were also included.  The Drive itself was transformed into 3 self-contained cul-de-sacs.  The refurbishment led to the newly named Barn Park Crescent being named the most improved street in Britain in a competition run by the Local Government News in 1995.

Meanwhile, the housing association had also begun work on new build homes.  It had originally planned to have a rehabilitation scheme for blocks 59-62 in the North area of Wester Hailes Drive as had been carried out for Barn Park Crescent, but after discussion with residents and the local community, it was decided to knock the existing properties down and to build new homes.  All the homes and flats were built with insulation, double glazing and new heating systems.  The new area was renamed Dumbeg Park and marked the last phase in the redevelopment of the Park and Drive area. You can read more about the Dumbeg development here.

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