In the third part of our deep dive into how futuristic plans became a crumbling failure, David Leask asks what the future holds for Millcroft Road. 

It was dubbed the “town for tomorrow”. There was a lot of optimism about Cumbernauld when it was planned. The new town was designed to replace some of the slums of the central belt, especially Glasgow, and act as a clean hub for new, high-tech industries. 

There has been a lot of cynicism about these aspirations. Its futuristic town centre first lauded as an architectural marvel and then crowned Scotland’s Carbuncle has come to be a symbol of failure. That building, like Millcroft Road, is to be pulled down.

Read the first part of the series: Cumbernauld's Millcroft Road: How dreams turned into a buy-to-let slum

Yet Cumbernauld is not doing badly. Its location is good. There is investment, private and public. Just behind Millcroft Road is a new school and theatre complex, with award-winning design. This is one of the reasons why Blocks C, D and E looked like good buy-to-let options from a distance. It is also why they are coming down: they are blighting what planners hope will be an attractive neighbourhood.

Stakeholders had until earlier this month to object to the CPO for the Millcroft Road slums. Three have done so. That means at least weeks more uncertainty over the future of the flats.

Read the second part of the series: 'People deserve better': The Cumbernauld street ravaged by buy-to-let investors

The Herald:

North Lanarkshire Council plans to use the land to build social housing on a smaller scale, with 72 flats, some specially designed for wheelchair access. Official documents stress these homes will look nice, with “landscape gardens”, “pleasant courtyards”, an “abundance of greenery”. 

They will be net-zero-friendly properties too, with electric car charging as standard. This is part of Cumbernauld 2.0, a new New Town.

Heather Brannan-McVey, convener of housing for North Lanarkshire Council, stresses her council was only able to do this because it kept its housing. The local authority eschewed trendy stock transfers two decades ago.

"People want to live in Cumbernauld, in council houses, and this gives us an opportunity to build them,” she argues. “But if the council was not willing to be bold in our approach, this solution wouldn't have presented itself. That is because other partners in the past have decided against it.

“We have been able to progress this project because we're Scotland's largest local council house provider,” she continues. “These may well be some of the most expensive council houses that have ever been built. But this is an investment in the regeneration of Cumbernauld and Cumbernauld deserves that and North Lanarkshire deserves that.”

Current residents of Millcroft Road, however, cannot expect to be decanted into the new properties. These will be let to people on the local council’s common housing register, and allocated according to the authority’s points system. There is room in another new development nearby.

Not everybody in the street is happy about that. Private tenants are resigned to their fate. Some owner occupiers too. Many had picked up relatively inexpensive homes thinking they would end up mortgage and rent-free. Now some - the council acknowledges - are in negative equity: they owe more than their property is worth.

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The Herald:

“We are aware that is an issue,” admits Neil Watts, a housing official at North Lanarkshire, “and we are trying to direct such owners towards advice. We are trying to respect their problems and needs.”

Ms Brannan-McVey chimes in. “We have to take a bespoke approach with every individual,” she says. “We have to recognise that nobody is sitting in an ideal situation. If they were, then we would not be taking this action.

“But ultimately these flats were not maintained, despite council efforts to compel repairs. And now people are sitting in properties they cannot afford to sell.”

The pensioner whose toilet kept flooding is one of those looking at a grim future. “I guess the majority of owners will be satisfied that progress is being made after a six-year hiatus,” he laments. “But it’s been a sorry tale of frustration and fear.”

“To lose my home at this stage in my life is more than a little scary as well as being socially and financially catastrophic.” 

The man thinks the council has taken too long to act.  “We are being penalised for the incompetence and inefficiency of the first tier of government and I personally will not recover financially from this debacle regardless of any negotiated compensation,” he adds. “Homes are not just brick and mortar, they are memories, social networks and the roots of who we are as people and members of society. Those responsible for this shambles should hang their heads in shame.”