Paisley is Scotland's largest town with a population of around 74,000 people. It is located in Renfrewshire, 6 miles south west of Glasgow City Centre and is made up of several suburbs, estates and districts. Its appeal to be granted city status has been thwarted twice in favour of smaller towns on the grounds that it is too close to and dependant on Glasgow to be a city in its own right.
The town has been transformed over the past century. Prior to World War I, the town was one of the most industrialised in the UK, with its economy entirely dependent on industry on the River Cart, River Clyde and in the textile mills. Housing was most commonly 2, 3 and 4 storey tenement flats or in 18th century cottages. At this point, the town's population was pushing 100,000 and these people were contained in only a few square miles. Overcrowding was a major problem and disease spread quickly.
During the inter war years, the "Homes For Heroes" approach led to more, and a better standard of council housing being built. These were erected during the 1920s and 1930s at Lounsdale, Ralston, parts of Ferguslie and Whitehaugh. The population still remained at an unmanageable level in the central areas but proposed housing estates were postponed due to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Paisley's housing problems were recognised as amongst the worst in the country, at a time when many major cities and towns were also suffering from an unmanageable density of people. As a result, its boundaries were extended due to the passing of the Scottish Housing Act 1946. This enabled the town to build new housing estates on what was formerly rural land. The first estate to be built was Hunterhill in the south east, which was completed in 1950. Meanwhile, the Clyde Valley Regional Planning Committee had plans to regenerate the central districts of Paisley. Proposals included designating Comprehensive Development Status to the leafy area of Castlehead. Should the plan have been carried out, the quiet neighbourhood of detached Victorian villas would be replaced by a high rise housing estate in the style of the Gorbals or Pollokshaws in Glasgow. The plans were rejected by the vast majority of the town and the CVRPC folded as Glasgow also withdrew its interest at this time.
Rather than creating high rise estates, the town planners focused on creating lowrise housing on the periphery in an attempt to jettison the poverty of the inner town to the spacious suburbs they were building. Schemes such as Glenburn, Gallowhill, Foxbar, Todholm and the now infamous Ferguslie Park were all nearing completion towards the end of the 1950s.
Still, with vast numbers still living in squalor, more had to be done but Paisley had run out of space. There was no longer a noticeable divide between the town and the Glaswegian metropolis to the east. The town was restricted as to how much farther west it could expand without annexing the neighbouring village of Elderslie. With RAF Abbotsinch (later to become Glasgow Airport) to the north and a protected greenbelt to the south, high rise, high density housing was the only option. The first scheme of this kind, George Street RDA was under construction from 1955 til 1965 and was a huge success and to this day, is the most popular high rise scheme in the town. It inspired many other tower blocks to be built throughout the town and this kind of housing was encouraged and became more popular in the 1960s as many estates built during the 1950s were extended to accommodate them. The five tower blocks in Foxbar were to be the largest cluster of tower blocks in Renfrewshire.
During the 1970s and 1980s, demand for housing reduced as the population declined year by year. In twenty years, the population fell from 91,000 to around 78,000. This left many properties vacant and derelict. The closure of the Rootes Car Plant in the 1980s hit employment in the town hard, in particular, Ferguslie Park which descended into a slum beyond even those it was built to replace and the estate was largely demolished in the 1990s. The first high rise demolition occurred in 1996 as Waverley Court in Foxbar fell victim to low demand. Most of the town's Victorian tenements were regenerated during the 1990s.
Today, Paisley has largely recovered from the trough of the 1980s. Regeneration is ongoing in many of the housing schemes, of which most fall into the top 10% deprived areas in the country, with council homes being razed and private developments built. There is a massive over supply of tenement flats and these have been the big casualty in the regeneration. Ferguslie Park is slowly being rebuilt although is showing little progress as it was found to still be the most deprived area in Scotland in 2006. In 2001, it was decided that part of the high rise stock were to be demolished. These demolitions were confirmed to be staged at Foxbar, Hunterhill and Millarston and again in 2004. In 2008, three of the remaining four at Foxbar were demolished. The three at Millarston were demolished by controlled explosion on 13th July 2008 and two at Hunterhill, Ardgowan Court and Blackhall Court have now been demolished.