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Massive £1.5billion town could open at Rigside

A UTOPIAN new eco-friendly and self-sufficient town, owned by its inhabitants and costing £1.5 billion, could be created near Rigside.

A century after the social reformer Robert Owen pioneered a co-operative, communal way of living at New Lanark, a charity is adopting his model to build Scotland’s latest new town.

Owenstown, named after the 19th-century industrialist, will be located on a 2000-acre greenfield site, just a mile from the village of Rigside.

It is expected to have a population of 20,000 people and could create 8000 jobs.

The £1.5 billion project is the brainchild of the Hometown Foundation, a charitable trust established to build new, self-sustainable communities.

It will be organised along many of the principles that Owen favoured when he managed and co-owned the mill at New Lanark, from 1800 to 1828.

Two of the men responsible for bringing New Lanark back from dereliction to World Heritage Site status, Jim Arnold and Arthur Bell, are amongst those involved in this ambitious project.

Jim Arnold, director of New Lanark since 1974, is chairman designate for Owenstown, while Arthur Bell, chairman of New Lanark Conservation Trust, is a trustee.

Robert Owen helped improve the living conditions of his workers by creating a co-operative store in the village, with profits invested in community facilities such as schools. However, Owen, who left New Lanark in 1828, never realised his ambition to see his ideals adopted elsewhere in Scotland.

At this week’s launch of the Owenstown project Jim Arnold said: “This will be a new and inspired modern version of Robert Owen’s dream. We’ve already been speaking to local and central government.”

The charity’s plans go on public display at New Lanark next week, opening a six-month period of consultation. It is hoped a planning application will be submitted next year, allowing construction to start in three years.

If approved, the new town will be self-sufficient, eco-friendly and run on co-operative principles and managed by its residents. Houses, produced in kit form by a factory located in the town, will be sold or rented, with the profits being ploughed back into the community. The factory will also be the first major employer in the community, which hopes that low overheads will help to attract new businesses. The town will have its own windfarm, producing low-cost energy, and a green heating system powered by recycled waste.

A farm on the outskirts will grow organic produce for local consumption and each household is to have its own garden or allotment plot to encourage the growing of fruit and vegetables.

A fleet of low-carbon electric vehicles will be the principal mode of transport for those whose journeys cannot be made on foot or bicycle, and routes for visitor traffic will be established to reduce any adverse impact.

Decisions will be made by a board of trustees elected by residents, local government would have a role in running the town. Dr Arnold said Owenstown would not bypass the system of elected councillors.

Stuart Crawford, a trustee of Hometown Foundation which has bought the land and set up the Owenstown co-operative, said: “This is an innovative and ground-breaking project. The general response has been one of enthusiasm.”

Karen Gillon, Clydesdale MSP, and Scottish Labour’s rural development spokesman, described Owenstown as ambitious and exciting, adding: “A new town would revitalise the area and would have beneficial knock-on effects for the local economy. I back this development and would be keen to work with Hometown Foundation to ensure it comes to fruition.”

Those behind the project explained that once planning permission is granted, a loan can be requested from banks or building societies to start construction. Businesses interested in being in the new town can also contribute money to its development.

Community involvement is an important part of the proposals and before a planning application is submitted the trustees have pledged to carry out a major consulation exercise.

The new town would be marginally smaller than Carluke, and twice as big as Lanark.

Source: Hamilton Advertiser