The City Of Edinburgh Council announced this week that it is planning to give the Calders area a £500,000 makeover. Work will include improving pavements, fencing, boundary walls and installing a new children’s play area. The revamp project is due to start in November this year and be completed by Spring 2014.
The Calders as a housing area was developed earlier than the rest of Wester Hailes with 537 pre-fab homes being constructed in 1956. However Edinburgh was facing a housing crisis as it sought to tackle appalling living standards in its tenements, many of which were now only fit for demolition. Building new homes seemed the obvious answer, but there was a lack of suitable land, and the council of the day turned its attention to the land being occupied by low density pre-fabs. Edinburgh had 4,000 of these, the highest number of any city in Scotland, and planners estimated that they could fit 10,000 new homes where the pre-fabs stood. Despite strong objections from those living in the pre-fabs, they were cleared to make way for higher density housing, including high rise blocks to provide 1,300 homes.
As with many of the high rise developments of the time, the Calders blocks suffered from design faults and building flaws. Residents responded through protest campaigns and by working with the rest of the Wester Hailes community to highlight the problems. In 1980, the Sentinel reported that a petition from the residents of Dunsyre House had led to the decision that a caretaker would be installed there, when appropriate housing became available. The Sentinel commented,
In view of the difficulties which tenants experience in transferring out of high rise block, “appropriate housing” becoming available could take some time.
The council instigated improvements over the years, but these were still not always designed around the needs of the tenants. In 1986 the Sentinel reported on the plight of a mother living in Cobbinshawe House who was struggling to get her pram through the block’s doors. The sliding doors had been replaced after vandalism, but the new doors were now too heavy to hold open whilst pushing a pram. You can read the story in full here.
Whilst residents of the Calders faced difficult living conditions, community activity was strong. Although Calders was not always included in initial local community structures, by the time the Representative Council was established, it was part of this key body. In 1979 and 1980, much of local activity focus for the Calders was around the Outer City Bypass proposals. But the tenants association also dealt with a range of other issues as can be seen in the Sentinel’s February 1980 Around The Areas Report. Neighbourhood councils were formed to represent the different areas within Calders and in 1991, it was reported that the Calders Court and Gardens was the first low rise housing area in the Calders to establish a neighbourhood council.
It is therefore great news for the Calders not only to have this investment announced but also to know that residents in the area are continuing to invest in their area through campaigning and community events. The Calders Residents Association recently organised a Summer Fete for the area and you can find out more about them here.