Page last updated at 08:22 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 09:22 UK

New town could create 8,000 jobs

By Laura Pettigrew
Lanarkshire reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Computer generated image of how the new town might look
A computer-generated image provides an impression of the new town

Plans for an "eco-friendly" new town based on co-operative principles in South Lanarkshire have been unveiled.

Owenstown, located 5 miles from Lanark, at Rigside, would be home to 20,000 people and could create 8,000 jobs.

It is being run by the Hometown Foundation and is inspired by social reformer Robert Owen, who pioneered innovative conditions in New Lanark.

However, critics have said the project is not sustainable and that developments should focus on cities.

The Hometown Foundation, a charitable trust established to help build new self-sustainable communities and regenerate rundown areas, has already secured the 2,000-acre site south of Lanark.

The new town would be self-sufficient, eco-friendly, run on co-operative principles and managed by its residents.

We don't achieve eco-friendly communities by this sort of ad hoc despoliation of the countryside
Neil Baxter
Royal Incorporation of Architects

Once it has been established the town would be handed over by the Foundation to a board of trustees, elected annually.

The chairman of the trustees of the new town, Dr Jim Arnold, who is also director of the world heritage site of New Lanark, said the idea started more than 200 years ago with Robert Owen.

"This will be a new and inspired modern version of his dream," Dr Arnold said.

"Owen was ahead of his time and never fully achieved his ambition. It would be wonderful to realise the dream in 21st Century Scotland."

In nearby New Lanark in the the early 19th Century, Robert Owen helped improve the living conditions of his workers by creating a co-operative store in the village, which saw its profits used to develop community facilities, such as schools and nurseries.

In Owenstown, energy-efficient houses for new residents would be built by the trust then sold or rented with the profits being ploughed back into the local community.

The town would have its own farm and wind farm and an environmentally-friendly heating system powered by recycled waste.

Trustees reveal town plans
The plans for Owenstown were unveiled by the trustees at New Lanark

Each household would have its own garden or plot of land in a community allotment.

There would also be schools, recreational facilities and opportunities for businesses and investors to set up offices and premises in the town.

Dr Arnold said the building of the town itself would create an initial economic surge and new jobs.

He added: "We will also be looking to attract high-tech companies, people interested in sustainable and renewable energy.

"And of course we will have the skilled tradesmen that every community has, plus teachers and other staff to work in the schools, creches and recreational facilities."

Stuart Crawford from the Hometown Foundation said that if the Owenstown project was a success the trust would be looking to regenerate other areas across Scotland.

'Completely wrong'

"The whole idea behind Owenstown is to try and recreate a community way of living, which perhaps we have lost a little bit in Scotland," he said.

"This is a big, ambitious initiative but why shouldn't South Lanarkshire be the recipient of such a project.

"People who have been briefed about it, from government level to local MSPs and the local council, seem very enthusiastic."

However, Neil Baxter, from the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, described the project as "thoroughly well-intentioned but completely wrong".

"It's inappropriate because Scotland has lots of brownfield and what we need to do if we're to create truly sustainable and eco-friendly communities is to concentrate development in our cities," he said.

"We don't achieve this by this sort of ad hoc despoliation of the countryside, on greenbelt land.

"We've got any number of communities that have lost their economic raison d'être - this place won't have one, everybody will be driving from there to Glasgow or Edinburgh to work - that isn't sustainable."

A public consultation process is now under way.

An exhibition detailing plans for the new town will be held in New Lanark from 1 - 3 September.

The next step would be a formal planning application to South Lanarkshire Council.

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