Whitfield, Scotland

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The Whitfield Housing Estate in Dundee, Scotland, was built by the Dundee District Council during the 1960's. The Scheme contained 4,500 plus homes to house more than 12,000 people. The houses were of mixed type and styles including maisonettes, flats, terraced houses, and multi-storey blocks. There was also a comprehensive shopping centre. Sadly, after completion, the maisonette deck-access type houses known as the Skame (which covered almost 50% of the Estate) gradually became slum areas with very high unemployment, high crime rates, and extreme deprivation. What were the residents to do?

Around 1985, following the development of a number of Community Organisations and Lounges, some local people organised and led a Forum called "Whitfield Talks", and at one public meeting stated their views and complaints in very strong terms. The meeting took officers and councillors by surprise, but gave them food for thought. The Council responded with a programme of housing improvements but had insufficient money to improve all of Whitfield. A group of tenants proposed selling off some of the houses in Dunbar Crescent and using the money to carry out improvements to the remaining housing stock and the surrounding environment. These steps were carried out and since completion this area, now called Dunbar Park, has won many awards. Other initiatives such as the Ormiston Housing Co-op were developed.

It began to be recognised at local and national levels that physical improvement alone were not enough. In 1988, as a result of a document called New Life for Urban Scotland, published by the Scottish Office, four partnership areas were formed in Scotland. Whitfield was one of the partnership areas. The Partnership's purpose was to tackle the serious problems of multiple deprivation and consisted of Dundee District Council, Tayside Regional Council, Scottish Homes, Scottish Enterprise Tayside, Tayside Health Board, Department of Employment, Tayside Police, and the Scottish Office.

Just as important, the residents of the estate were invited to participate and formed a representative group called the Whitfield Steering Group (WSG). WSG was made up of tenants/residents groups, in fact all types of groups who had the estate's interest at heart. During the next seven years the change was quite remarkable. The following projects are some examples of the changes that followed the formation of the WSG: two housing Co-ops; a Housing Association; demolition of all unimproved deck-access blocks; and a Community Nursery Project. With these changes, the stigma of being a Whitfield Resident was removed.

The job is not complete at the time of writing. Another change has taken place. The Scottish Office see their role in the Partnership as being complete and have pulled out, leaving by agreement the Community, in the form of WSG, to now lead the Partnership. Fortunately, all other remaining partners have stayed to see the job completed. We the Voluntary Workers, now left in place, are the first to acknowledge the way has been hard and mistakes have been made. However, thorough the determination, co-operation, effort, and hard work of all concerned, we intend to put the finishing touches to the base structure already built and maintain community involvement in all local issues.