The new New Lanark – built on 200 years of tradition
AMBITIOUS plans inspired by the co-operative principles of a 19th-century reformer have been unveiled for a new town of 20,000 people in the heart of Scotland.
Owenstown is to be built on a 2,000-acre site near Rigside village, five miles south of Lanark, within three years.
Hometown, the charity behind the development, has invoked the spirit of Robert Owen, who managed and part-owned the mill in New Lanark from 1800 to 1835.
He helped improve the living conditions of his workers by creating a co-operative store in the village, with its profits used to develop community facilities such as schools.
The charity said the new project may create 8,000 jobs, starting with a factory to build some of the energy-efficient houses planned for the site.
A wind farm will help power the town and each house may get an allotment and garden in order to grow vegetables.
The trust has said that it will be entirely self-financing. At the moment, the trust only owns the land and as yet has no large-scale funding.
It is hoped once planning permission is applied for and secured, the subsequent rise in the value of land, plus funding from individuals, will create a basis for financing the project.
A planning application is expected within the coming year and the development could be up and running by 2012.
Yesterday's launch also marked the beginning of a six-month public consultation exercise involving interested parties such as the local authorities and residents of the area.
Dr Jim Arnold, chairman of the proposed town's co-operative body, said Owenstown would be run along co-operative lines. For 1, each resident would be able to have a say on the town's development.
Mr Arnold, who is also director of New Lanark Trust, said: "This will be a new and inspired modern version of Robert Owen's dream – a realisation of his ideals.
"Owen was ahead of his time and never fully achieved his ambition. It would be wonderful to realise the dream in 21st-century Scotland.
"We've been speaking already to local and central government to seek their views on it."
Mr Arnold also said the co-operative would aim to help villages in the area.
Stuart Crawford, a trustee of the Hometown Foundation which has bought the land and set up the Owenstown co-operative, said:
"This is an exciting, innovative and ground-breaking project.
"Politicians locally and nationally are aware of this. The general response has been one of enthusiasm."
However, a spokesman for South Lanarkshire Council said: "We have not been involved with this proposed development."
And the secretary of Rigside Residents Association, Archibald Galbraith, was unaware of the mooted project.
"I have to say that this is a complete surprise to us," he said.
"I'm shocked that something this big could just fall out of the sky this way. Having said that, I would welcome anything that would bring work of any nature into this area."
If planning permission is granted for the town, a loan would be requested from banks or building societies to start construction.
Businesses interested in being in the new town can also contribute money to the development.
A spokesman for the Royal Town Planning Institute said that while it could not comment directly on what it described as an "interesting proposal", it believed developments of this kind should be led by the local authority to ensure sustainability.
"The example we give is that of Ravenscraig, where it's built on a brown-field site and there are existing transport links, rather than completely separate proposals," he said.
"The local authorities are the key to any plan. Sustainability isn't just about having green technology in the homes, it's about the whole masterplan, businesses and transport, and how this all fits into the local area's structure."
An exhibition giving more information on the proposal is being held in the New Lanark Hotel at the New Lanark World Heritage Site from 1 September to 3 September.
Quartet with a vision to create a new town in South Lanarkshire
THE Hometown Trust, which is the driving force behind Owenstown, consists of four trustees:
• Arthur Bell CBE, an entrepreneur who counts Scottish Gourmet, Whisky Connoisseur, and The Thimble Guild among his business, he has spent 21 years as chairman of the New Lanark Housing Association and is also chairman of New Lanark (Conservation) Trust. He also worked as an advisor to both the Thatcher and Major governments.
• Robert Durward, entrepreneur and chairman of The New Party, a political group promoting "economic liberalism, political reform and internationalism" that materialised in 2002 during a period of turmoil within the Conservative Party.
Based in Lanark, he runs a quarrying business and is director of the British Aggregates Association, set up to defend the interests of the quarrying industry.
A long-standing critic of environmentalists, he helped found The Scientific Alliance, to counter the green lobby.
• John Lockhart, a public policy consultant working with the voluntary and community sector. He has worked with a wide range of groups in a training and research capacity and has lectured in higher education
Mr Lockhart currently runs Policyworks, a public policy information network that purports to promote "liberal democracy".
• Stuart Crawford, born and brought up in Glasgow, he qualified as a chartered surveyor before joining the army as an officer in the Royal Tank Regiment. He left the army in 1999 having achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and started his own public affairs company.
He is also a director and trustee of the charity Depression Alliance Scotland.
Village stands as a monument to one man's belief in the essential goodness of humanity
DESPITE his association with New Lanark, Robert Owen's roots lie in Wales, where he was born in 1771, the son of an ironmonger.
He settled in Glasgow after marrying the daughter of the owner of New Lanark's mills.
Becoming part owner and manager of the mills in 1810, he used his experience gained working in the Manchester mills to run New Lanark on higher principles, concentrating less on commercial drives.
Robert Owen was not only concerned with making money, he was also interested in creating a new type of community at New Lanark.
Owen believed that a person's character was formed by the effects of their environment and he was convinced that if he created the right environment, he could produce rational, good and humane people.
Owen argued that people were naturally good but they were often corrupted by the harsh ways in which they were treated.
Breaking with common business practices, he sold quality products and passed on the savings from the bulk purchase of goods to the workers. These principles became the basis for the Co-operative shops that continue to trade today.
He was also a strong opponent of physical punishment in schools and factories and immediately banned the use of such measures in New Lanark.
He also placed the sale of alcohol under strict supervision and established an infant care scheme that was to become the model for others throughout the UK.
New Lanark itself became a touchstone for social reformers.
However, his attempts to spread the co-operative scheme ultimately failed and Owen withdrew from all connection with New Lanark in 1828.
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