Raploch v Loch Lomond for Scotland’s best place

AN AREA considered to have some of the most deprived households in the country is up against the likes of Loch Lomond and Edinburgh’s Royal Mile for the title of Scotland’s Best Place.
Raploch, as seen from Stirling Castle. Picture: geograph.co.ukRaploch, as seen from Stirling Castle. Picture: geograph.co.uk
Raploch, as seen from Stirling Castle. Picture: geograph.co.uk

The Raploch district of Stirling has been shortlisted for the national award by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

The award, made in partnership with the Scottish Government, is part of the RTPI’s centenary celebrations, set up to recognise excellence in planning by highlighting places that have been built, improved or protected by the Scottish planning system.

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The shortlist of ten was selected from 55 initial suggestions by a special advisory panel and the winning locations will be announced in June and featured in a centenary edition of RTPI Scotland’s journal.

Other places on the list include Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park; Lerwick waterfront in Shetland; the Merchant City, Glasgow; Crown Street in Glasgow’s Gorbals; and East Kilbride in Lanarkshire.

Largely built in the inter-war years as an overspill for the slums of Glasgow, the Raploch used to be dubbed “Little Ireland” because of its predominantly Catholic, and deprived, population.

In the early 1990s, a survey of educational achievements labelled it “a Higher-free zone”, and the area had acquired a reputation for drug misuse.

By the mid-1990s, it had become notorious, with large swaths “ruled” by crime clan queen Mags Haney, who died last year.

Former Stirling sheriff Norrie Stein said the family of the mother-of-eight had brought “misery to their community for many years”.

At one stage, Haney ran an anti-paedophile campaign, leading a mob through the streets, while continuing her own, different illegal activities.

She was finally jailed for 12 years for running a £1,000-a-day drug empire, along with other members of her family, and the area’s fortunes began to turn.

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Many of the inter-war blocks in the Glendevon Drive area, with their brick closes and open coal fires, went under the bulldozer as Stirling Council, the Scottish Government and other agencies began a major rebuild.

Nine-hundred new energy-efficient homes went up.

Haney’s former home is now a grassy area where people walk their dogs, and the Raploch’s central thoroughfare, Drip Road, where motorists used to lock their doors at traffic lights, is lined by airy, modern, balconied flats with a Scandanavian feel.

The area’s two religiously segregated primary schools were merged on an ultra-modern campus.

The “Big Noise” orchestra, a partnership between the local council and Sistema Scotland, which aims to use music as “a powerful instrument of social transformation”, was established there. In 2012, the Raploch housing scheme played host to the opening concert of the London Olympics Festival.