The New New Town (BBC Radio 4 Documentary)

Press/Media: Expert Comment


In 1947, East Kilbride became Scotland's first designated 'New Town'. But it hasn't aged well. In new proposals, 1/3rd of the town centre is earmarked for demolition. Can it work?

Post-war planners broke the mould when they created East Kilbride. This 'new town' was the result of utopian thinking and a reaction against what had gone before; primarily densely-packed, unsanitary and run-down tenements. It started out as a way to empty out the city centre of nearby Glasgow. But for residents of a new town, it wasn't just the location that took some getting used to. It was a new way of life too...

In East Kilbride, as with the four other Scottish New Towns that followed, the focus was on shopping and car use. The retail sector was the middle of the donut, with a ring of residential housing on the outside. Linking the two were roundabouts. Lots and lots of roundabouts - hence the nick name 'polo mint city.'

Navigating a new town meant owning your own car. Public transport, and even pavements, were less prioritised. Today, this feels anomalous to our net zero goals. Back in 1947, it led to the construction of Scotland's biggest undercover retail space, which doubled as the 'town centre'.

Today, this once thriving destination is ghostly quiet. Almost 100 units are vacant and there's over half a million square foot of empty floor space. Clearly, change is needed, but how? One solution is to start over, replacing the empty department stores with homes and open air public spaces.

This programme looks at what it meant to grow up in a New Town the implications of this urban overhaul, and how it reflects on the broader questions we're currently addressing about car travel, community and engagement with our town centres.

Period9 Jan 2024

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleThe New New Town
    Degree of recognitionNational
    Media name/outletBBC Radio 4
    Media typeRadio
    Duration/Length/Size30 mins
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    DescriptionBBC Radio 4, 9 January 2024
    Producer/AuthorVictoria McArthur
    PersonsAlistair Fair