Squatting for community development

The current structure here housing most and lots of organisation was because the community squatted on it. This enabled organisations to quickly set up, quickly move in and established themselves and led to the development of this site as accommodation of community service providers.  We moved in, the Parents Group was one, the Hailes Group, the Tennis Association was one, em the Rep Council started to come in because they decided they wanted an umbrella group to get all the different organisations into one.  A lot of groups, Hailelands, Dumbryden, etc were all dotted around. So to get everybody together was a good idea to approach the Council [Edinburgh City Council]. But it worked. All these different organisations under one umbrella. It gives a sense of belonging.

Originally this site was set aside to build an old folks home, which is moved to Clovenstone. The reason was that because the community has staked a claim to this site, as squatters. It was one of the few suitable areas of open space that huts could be built on. So what happened was that creatively people got together to pull their resources and organisations to get this site developed. Initially, the Council was in opposition to this. But they realised that em, that the community backed this. So it could have gone quite angry, quite messy if the Council had stuck to their opposition. So it put Wester Hailes on the map as well. Because, in the beginning, people were being moved into Wester Hailes from all over Edinburgh. There were massive social problems and this was looked upon as really, really something positive to pull people together. And it did pull people together. This was a focal point. It was the beating heart of community development. Had it not been for this base, many services would have been closed.

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