What is Owenstwon
Owenstown is a unique project in Scotland which over a number of years will become a town of around 3200 homes as a community run on co-operative principles by the people who will live there. It is being planned for an area of land in the Douglas Valley in South Lanarkshire near the village of Rigside.
Who is behind this?
Owenstown is being established by the Hometown Foundation, a Scottish-based charity which aims to help create sustainable communities and regenerate rundown urban areas.
Who'll live there?
Anyone who wants to – and is enthusiastic about a co-operative lifestyle. There would be a wide cross-section of society across all age ranges, skills and background.
Who wouldn't be allowed to live there?
Owenstown will be open to anyone and everyone.
Who'll decide who gets to live there?
The people who want to live there will decide for themselves.
Is this trying to create a perfect society?
Absolutely not. This is about creating a new way of living for Scotland in the 21st Century based on some of the social reforms first begun 200 years ago by Robert Owen at New Lanark.
How do you get a house there?
By registering an interest at this stage and once the development begins by applying for a plot and building – or having built – your house.
How are you consulting with the public?
We launched Owenstown with a major public exhibition in 2009 and have included the feedback received into the latest plans. We have also held four public exhibitions in 2012 in Rigside, Douglas, Lanark and Biggar. The response from these exhibitions has been extremely positive and we are presently engaged in a series of meetings with local community councils. In addition our website has the facility for everyone to input their own ideas about the project.
What is the timescale for the project?
This is a long term project but the initial stages including public consultations have now been completed. We are presently on target to submit our planning application by the end of October this year, 2012. The decision making process will obviously dictate how long it will be before construction gets under way.
What support are you getting from the Government?
The Scottish Government has been consulted and is very interested in the Owenstown project. It was also very interested in the local feedback and we do not anticipate and major obstacles arising from Edinburgh.
Why do we need somewhere like Owenstown?
Scotland faces many social problems, some of which are due to the breakdown of communities. Owenstown will recreate the community spirit which has been lost in many areas and give residents a say in how and where they live in a self-sufficient, eco-friendly town run on co-operative principles. Owenstown will be a new way of living for the 21st Century.
What makes it different from other residential areas?
It will be run by the residents themselves on co-operative principles developing some of the ideas begun by Robert Owen in New Lanark 200 years ago. It will have it own green transport and district heating system using renewable energy from waste and other low carbon sources such as ground source heat.
What will be the benefits of living in Owenstown?
A sense of community in an environmentally friendly town where you have a say in how it is run.
Will there be any rented houses?
Yes, but the majority will be owned by the householders. There will be a range of house sizes and values. Houses available for rent will also be built by the Co-op.
How will you provide schools and education?
There will be two primary schools and one secondary school. We also hope to provide various types of further education as well.
What account have you taken of the range of religious beliefs?
There will be a non-denominational place of worship which will be made available to followers of all religions.
How will you deal with crime?
Any crime will be dealt with by the police in the same way as anywhere else in Scotland. We believe that the strength of the community will mean that the crime level will be very low.
How are the trustees appointed?
The Hometown Foundation trustees have volunteered and have been approved by the charity regulators OSCR. The Owenstown trustees under the chairmanship of Dr Jim Arnold have also volunteered and we are looking for others who are enthusiastic about the project to join them. Eventually, the residents of the town will appoint their own people.
How long will the Owenstown trustees be in charge before handing over to residents?
As soon as there are a sufficient number of residents, they will take over responsibility for running the town. The make-up of the Co-operative’s Board will ensure that there is a balance of skills available to run this enterprise. Non-residents will always be a part of the Board but as a minority.
Who builds the houses?
Building companies or individuals according to general design guidelines.
Will there be no pensioners if there's to be a job for each household?
In terms of employment, Owenstown is not expected to be wholly self-contained. There will be some commuting – both in and out. Owenstown will have a full range of residents including pensioners and children. There may be some households where several people are working and some where the people are retired or do not work.
What rules will residents have to abide by?
The law of Scotland – and a general commitment to the principles of co-operative living.
Do you have to be wealthy to live there?
Absolutely not. There will be a range of homes – many of them kit homes manufactured in the town itself.
Could the trustees evict a problem family?
This would be an issue which would be tackled by the residents themselves. If the family was a tenant of a rented house, then they would be bound by the conditions of the tenancy agreement.
Why are you creating this new town in the middle of the country on a Greenfield site? Would it not make more sense to use Brownfield sites within existing cities?
The Hometown Foundation recognises the potential to carry out similar co-operative schemes in run down urban areas and we will actively pursue this as well. However, we feel that the most effective and beneficial project for South Lanarkshire will be a brand new purpose built settlement to replace industries which have long since departed.
What is in it for the people of Rigside?
We want to work alongside the other residents in the area and would want the local communities to be supportive and involved. Owenstown will provide jobs and leisure facilities which will be of a direct benefit to Rigside and Douglas Water residents. A number of people from Rigside have already noted an interest in acquiring a house and some Rigside based businesses have also been in touch. We believe the entire area will benefit from the creation of Owenstown.
Surely the A70 is not capable of carrying this volume of traffic?
A transport study has already been carried out. The verdict was that, for a trunk road, the A70 is relatively lightly trafficked and that this will decrease with the conclusion of open cast coal mining in the area. There may be some traffic created as Owenstown develops, but as the houses would be built in kit form from a factory on the Owenstown site and as we believe many residents will live and work within the town, that increase should be minimal. We believe public transport in the general area will improve with the development of Owenstown. There are two bad bridges which are long overdue for replacement and these would be attended to in conjunction with the roads authority.
Where's the money coming from?
The Hometown Foundation has provided the land on which the town will be built. Once planning permission is granted, the land will be transferred to the Owenstown Co-operative Society. The increase in land value with planning permission will create the financial strength to create the town. Income generated from the sale of housing plots and commercial buildings will be reinvested in the town.
Who'll make money from this?
The Owenstown Co-operative Society will gain the income from the development of the town and will reinvest it in the town and its facilities for public benefit.
Would people who want to live there have to get a mortgage - on something which isn't even built?
If potential residents need to finance the building of their home they may take out a mortgage as they would on any new housing development.
Will the residents pay council tax if they don't use council services - bins, schools etc?
Yes, in the same way that everyone in Scotland pays council tax to their local authority for central services such as the police, fire service and social work.
What if someone wants to sell their house?
They would put it on the open market as with in any other area. Restrictions would only apply if the owner secured their house at a beneficial price from the Co-op. The Co-op would like to see this benefit being passed on to the next purchaser.
How will the Co-op be able to make the housing at Owenstown affordable for all?
Modern, modular construction techniques, with manufacturing carried out in the town, and minimal profit for the developer, which goes straight back into the Co-op, will ensure that the houses will affordable for all.
What makes it environmentally sustainable?
Owenstown will be a showpiece for sustainable living in the 21st Century to deliver a low carbon community. It will minimise the need for resources and maximise the use of renewables. It will focus on low carbon lifestyles; reduce energy use in buildings and movement; produce energy from waste and other low carbon sources; source and manufacture building materials locally and use water sensitively.
How does it generate its own power?
A district heating system powered by energy from waste and ground source heat exchange will provide heat and power. Owenstown will also be connected to the National Grid for electricity and gas.
Will cars be banned?
Adequate provision for cars will be designed into Owenstown to encourage a vibrant economy and easy access without interfering with the lifestyle quality. There will also be parking for conventional vehicles on the periphery of the town and transport around the town by electric powered bus or cycle. Residents will also be able to park at their homes.
What public transport will be available?
Electric powered buses and cycles.
What wildlife and protected species are on the site at the moment and what will be done to protect them?
This is a rural area and there is a range of wildlife, commercial forest and natural vegetation including woodland. All wildlife will be given careful consideration and included in the plan is a scheme to adapt the existing stream on the site to provide a haven for appropriate wildlife. In time the woodland will mature and then be felled and replanted.
What are you going to do to protect the badgers?
We are committed to protecting the environment on the site and we believe that our proposals will actually make life better, safer and more sustainable for all wildlife, including any badgers already in the area.
Where will the jobs come from?
Jobs will be created within the town, initially in building and construction but in the longer term through the establishment of sustainable businesses and workshops, benefiting from the lower heating and energy costs. As well as having its own dedicated farmland, Owenstown will form partnerships with local farmers to supply fresh produce to the town creating further employment. Employers interested in sustainable lifestyles may also be attracted to set up in the town.
What sort of jobs will there be?
There will be a range of employment opportunities in shops, offices and recreation facilities as well as workshops and small businesses providing local produce and services to the residents. Light commercial enterprises will be situated throughout the town and heavier industries will be accommodated in Owenstown's industrial estate.
How can you guarantee a job for each household?
We believe a town of some 7000 to 8000 residents will provide around 10,000 jobs which is more than one per household. With around 6,000 being created during the construction. Some households may have several working members, others may be retired or non-working. The jobs will also benefit existing communities within the Rural Investment Area.
Will residents be allowed to work outside the town?
Of course. Residents will be free to work wherever they wanted but by working within the town they will reduce their carbon footprint.
How do you see the town developing?
We see Owenstown developing over many years but continuing its sustainable credentials and thriving over the decades. We believe it will become a showpiece of community living for the rest of the country to follow.
What is the minimum number of people you need to make the project viable?
The initial residents will be the pioneers of this project but we believe that the concept will be attractive to many people who see the benefits of a co-operative way of life. It will grow over time as demand dictates. The existing site is able to comfortably accommodate at least 3,200 homes and we see that as the optimum size for the town once it is fully developed.
Is this is the only project the Hometown Foundation is involved in?
At present, yes. Owenstown is the first project to be sponsored by the Foundation but the Foundation will be happy to hear from others in other parts of Scotland, both rural and urban, who wish to bring other potential projects or initiatives to its attention.