Archive for the ‘History of Schemes’ Category

In all the recent talk of the city as the main focus of church planting and theological thought (at least in many quarters) it seems that rural ministry is a bit like the ugly girl at a wedding. Everybody knows she’s there but nobody wants to dance with her. It’s not my intent to talk about rural ministry in-depth in this article, but I am determined to highlight the plight of what we at 20schemes are terming rural housing schemes scattered throughout Scotland in what are often – incorrectly – thought of as less deprived areas than their urban counterparts.

Doubtless, our Western world is urbanising, and has been since the industrial revolution. The poor and needy on the fringes need Christ and they need gospel centred churches in which to grow and mature. But the massive gospel deficiency in rural areas in the UK is just as pressing and as needful of deep thought, concern, discussion, theologising and church planting action. Of course, this site is a forum for inner city housing schemes but I have been struck recently by the plight of rural areas as we at 20Schemes have gone about researching the need for health churches across Scotland.

During the research we have carried out in the last couple of years, we have discovered the existence of a great many invisible housing schemes in rural areas across the country. Why is this phenomenon not being widely reported in Evangelical church planting circles in our country? The problem, according to a recent report (Jan 2012) from the University of Dundee, is that the way we measure deprivation in our nation is somewhat faulty. For example, we read:

The conventional practice of using geographic units to analyse deprivation misses small pockets of deprivation in rural areas – when counts of deprived people rather than deprived places are used, the difference in deprivation between rural and urban areas is substantially narrowed.

How, therefore, is deprivation measured in Scotland?

According to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), there are 7 key factors to take into account when looking at terming an area ‘deprived’:

  1. Income (based on the receipt of key, means tested benefits, tax credits or pension credits)
  2. Employment (based on receipt of out of work benefits)
  3. Health (based on deaths, receipt of sickness benefits, hospital admissions and drug prescriptions)
  4. Education, skills and training (Based on the level of qualifications, participation in education or training and absences from schools)
  5. Housing (based on overcrowding and lack of central heating)
  6. Geographic access to services (based on public transport and drive times to key services)
  7. Crime (based on recorded offences)

Urban Deprivation v Rural Deprivation

Does it make any real difference whether you live in a scheme in the inner city or on the outskirts of a rural town? Well, there some major differences it has to be said. For example, startlingly, we have discovered that geographic access to services (based on public transport and drive times to key services) is 10 times worse if you live in a rural scheme than if you live in an urban one.

There are some researchers who feel that the data used to define deprivation in Scotland is skewed toward urban and industrialised areas. So, for instance, the rural poor may live in a nicer area (and thus not be qualified deprived according to the majority of the 7 factors noted), but they are far more likely to be socially excluded and have a greater struggle with isolation given where they live. According to Dr Donald Houston from the University of St Andrews and Dr Alistair Geddes from the University of Dundee:

Deprivation in urban areas tends to be geographically concentrated in certain neighbourhoods. In contrast, in rural areas deprivation often exists at the scale of streets rather than whole neighbourhoods.

What does this mean for 20Schemes and our vision? Well, at the very least it means that we will be recruiting church planters and male and female gospel workers for rural schemes alongside urban ones. These rural areas may not feature high up on the SIMD but they are a high priority for us as we seek to plant and/or revitalise gospel work in all of Scotland’s needy areas. Watch this space for further discussion and developments on these and other important issues in the coming weeks and months.

(Much of this information has been taken from The Church of Scotland Mission & Discipleship Council Rural Strategy  – “Understanding Rural Deprivation Report”, January 2012)


An article on the BBC website recently caught my eye.

“London’s New Housing Loses The “Dirty Word”

Apparently new homes being built in London are now being renamed, ‘neighbourhoods’ instead of ‘estates’ because the powers that be feel that the latter has a pejorative association. Indeed, according to the report, which you can read here, the word ‘estate’ is being airbrushed out of common use.

Professor Loretta Lees from King’s College London’s geography department says, “The word ‘estate’ has become synonymous with the term ‘ghetto’. “It’s become a dirty word. Back in the ’20s and ’30s it didn’t carry the same stigma.”

What is almost laughable about this whole thing is that those behind this social engineering think that the gentrification and re-marketing of poor areas is somehow going to relieve the underlying human, social and mental issues. As I’ve written before, gentrification is a good force as much as it is a destructive one in housing schemes. But, as we witness in Niddrie daily, new homes do not suddenly make new people. There is only one power capable of doing that at grassroots level. For real, lasting change to effect our communities people need a change of allegiance to King Jesus.

This week saw the launch of a new website: to go alongside our Facebook page and our twitter feed: @20schemes. So, what is 20schemes and how did it come about?

20schemes is the brainchild of myself and Matthew Spandler-Davison, a Scotsman (despite the mangled accent on our video) who planted Bardstown Christian Fellowship in Kentucky. The idea came to me one day when I saw a headline in the local press naming Scotland’s 50 most deprived schemes. The riots in the UK had just happened and I had been wondering if the evangelical church had a cohesive plan to tackle some of the problems in inner city council estates. Almost on a whim, I asked 2 young men who were training for me at the time (one is now my assistant pastor) to research these 50 schemes to find but everything they could about them but, most particularly, to discover if there was an active gospel preaching church in the community.

The results were as sad as they were unsurprising. Of the 50, at least half at no gospel church present and of the rest, even though there was the presence of some form of church, we were uncertain as to their theological and gospel convictions. One thing was clear, though, not only were Scotland’s 50 most deprived schemes in trouble economically and socially, but they were desperately deprived spiritually too. Therefore, if we were really going to see a turn around in the lives of residents in council estates and housing schemes then we were going to have to embrace a radical and long-term gospel strategy.

This is where Matthew came in. I had been in contact with him through a mutual friend and discovered that he was keen to send teams from the USA on short-term mission trips to Scotland. We discussed the merits of that as we pondered the desperate needs of housing schemes in the country. Yes, there is lots of church planting going on right now but, sadly, as followers here know, not too much happening in schemes. There are pockets of work but nothing that is organised at a national level in terms of mutual support and resourcing. Anyway, after much conversation, some mission trips and a lot of Skype calls, I pitched the vision of 20schemes to him in my back garden. Within weeks we had come up with a strategy and within months we had received the support and advice of the leadership at 9marks. I floated the idea out, casually, with Scottish pastors across denominations and have been met with universal approval for the idea.

We have our first planting intern in place in West Pilton (more details to follow) a scheme in the north of the city, we have started a fledgling work in Greendykes, a scheme next to our own and we are currently in early discussions with several churches interested in help and support for housing scheme ministry. All of our schemes will be highlighted on our website and their needs will be made known.

The broad aim of 20chemes is as follows:

We want to send 20 Church Planters to train 20 local leaders, 20 Women’s Workers to train 20 local women & 20 Ministry Apprentices make 20 discipling relationships as we see 20 gospel-centred churches developed and established in 20 Scottish housing schemes.

Our mission is simple.

Building Healthy Gospel Centered Churches for Scotland’s poorest communities

Why do we want to do this? For a number of reasons:

  1. We believe that the Gospel changes everything. We believe that we need to raise up a generation of Bible teachers and preachers who will go into the forgotten schemes of our country.
  2. We recognise that the presence of the Church is mercy ministry. In other words, we want to see local churches built up, evangelising, discipling and equipping a new generation of men and women from within these housing schemes who, likewise, will go and make disciples.
  3. We are heavily burdened for Scotland’s housing schemes as we see these communities with no, or very little, gospel witness. Planting new churches is a key strategy in reaching the lost in these areas.
  4. We desire to assist and resource existing churches – across denominations – and/or gospel ministries in these areas in order to bless them and further Kingdom work. We will plant if we have to but we would rather support and encourage existing work by offering people, resources and training.

How will we do it?

  1. Identify 20 schemes as priority areas.
  2. Identify, where possible, church revitalisation partners in those schemes.
  3. Recruit Church Planters, Female Outreach Workers, and Ministry Apprentices to send into those schemes as the ‘first wave’ of a long-term strategy. We aim to recruit local leaders if possible but we will recruit outside the UK if necessary.
  4. Develop church partners worldwide to support and resource our work in the schemes.
  5. Invest long-term in indigenous leaders by providing training, resources and support.

Please pray for us in this new endeavour. I am going to blog more extensively on these issues in  the coming months as the blog takes on a more generalised housing schemes focus. We are excited about what God is doing and what He will do in these places. Let me reiterate, our aim here is to help to build the local church not to start a denomination. We realise that we will need cross denominational support and we have been blessed immeasurably by local church support in Edinburgh and across Scotland. We have been blessed by the partnership with 9Marks and also a growing friendship with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and others. We aim to have an official launch in the UK at ‘In This City’ church planting conference  in Edinburgh on 2-3 November 2013.

If we can serve you or your church community please contact me. If you are interested in finding out more about how you could serve as a planter, a women’s worker, a ministry apprentice or an intern, please also contact me or use the form on the website. We will be happy to help. Thanks to you all in advance and praise God for His great mercy. Let’s pray for a gospel revival in Scotland’s housing schemes.

I will blog in more detail on our strategy in the coming weeks.


I found this little clip of the social history of Niddrie and Craigmillar online. I have also discovered that the urban regeneration that has been going on here for the last 10 years is not the first time the government has tried to ‘clean up’ the area in the last 100 years. Indeed, Niddrie & Craigmillar have both received many facelifts over that time. It is heartening to think that a place which once had a thriving Christian witness is slowly, but surely, coming to embrace the church here as a real centre point for community life.

Keep praying for us.

1945 & Onwards: ‘Social Housing’

Despite all the policy changes and some great progress in the inter war years, slum housing still remained a problem throughout the UK at the outbreak of WWII. There is a clip from the BBC archives here on some of the Scottish housing built in the 20’s and 30’s. The end of WWII brought with it a chronic housing problem due to wide scale bombing and damage of many cities (over 25% of British homes were destroyed). The government’s so-called ‘temporary’ solution at the time was to build factory made prefabricated houses to try to cope with the ever increasing demand. However, many of these (often substandard) houses remained in use right up until the 1980’s. Here is a clip of post war housing in Scotland.

The New Town’s Act was passed in 1946 and was meant to deal with the problem of slum housing and city centre overcrowding.

14 new towns were planned in the 1940s and another 14 built in the 1960s. New towns contained a variety of house types. Shops, schools and leisure facilities were within easy reach. New towns were built in Scotland at Cumbernauld, Glenrothes, Livingston, East Kilbride and Irvine.

The 50’s and 60’s saw wholesale changes to the British housing landscape as council after council demolished their stock of old, terraced houses and replaced them with ‘high rise’ flats ( tenements/stairs/apartments). In fact, they became a central feature in most of the UK’s ‘council estates’ and ‘schemes.’ Once again, community living took a back seat to social policy and many thousands of people were left lonely and isolated in these buildings, even if perversely, they lived in far better conditions. Then, in the late 70’s and 80’s, the UK government introduced a ‘right to buy’ initiative for many of the schemes as well as seeking to redevelop these places through private housing associations and private building contractors.

However, for most of the twentieth century the responsibility for the majority of social-housing projects lay with central government and local authorities. From the inter-war period until the 1980s, social housing effectively meant local-authority built, owned and managed housing. Of course, originally these places used to be bastions of respectability for the working class man and his family and were marked by perfectly trimmed lawns and net curtains hanging from the windows. Problems soon became apparent as ‘urban blight’ set in and many of these places were left to decay and rot over a period of decades. Abandoned buildings became a feature, particularly on the estate I grew up in. Schemes began to be marked by rising crime, violence, the explosion of the drug scene, gang culture and a lack of economic stimulation. This led to many empty properties becoming ‘squat’s and places in which to buy/sell/take drugs.

Opinions on housing schemes differ depending on your life history and experience of them. I was dragged up through the gutter, so my view is somewhat coloured compared to a person who grew up in a ‘respectable’ (had a job and both parents) household on the same scheme. Nowadays, there are still vestiges of working class people, sometimes holding down 2 or more jobs as they struggle to pay the bills often dealing with an ever-increasing credit problem. Hand in hand with modern redevelopment we have an influx of middle class social climbers. In Niddrie, young professionals getting on the property ladder, are buying over priced flats and houses from property developers. They’re bringing with them their worldview, often not understanding fully the nuances of entering a tight-knit scheme community where families have lived for generations (our scheme is over 100 years old). Then we have immigrants flooding in from around the world, met with suspicion and derided for ‘taking our jobs’ (usually by people who haven’t got one, want one, or would even consider doing the jobs that many of these people do). We also have the ‘benefits class’ who have been on social security handouts for generations. Even when they do work, they still claim benefits because it is seen as giving it to the establishment.  For them the feeling of entitlement is all pervasive. Work is anathema and they are incredulous at the suggestion that they might have to earn the benefits they receive. All of this fed by a pill culture that is commonplace, coupled with a criminal underbelly that deals in street drugs, prescribed medication and stolen goods as a matter of course. Far too many people are ruled by fear, control and the ideal of not being a ‘grass’. Back in the golden days people were proud that they could leave their back doors open. Nowadays, the only people who can do this, perversely, are criminals or those who come from a ‘known’ family. Schemes, then, are a real mixture of people. To some they are places of horror, to some places of terror, to some places of hopelessness but to many millions more they are ‘home’.

This is the first in a number of posts on the topic of housing schemes.

In most of the UK they are known as ‘Council Estates’, in the US they are regarded as the ‘Projects’ and in Scotland they are called ‘Schemes’. They are unique, if I can use that word, to ‘Westernised, industrial’ nations. They are not ‘slums’ as one would see in India, for instance, (and in pre-industrialised Britain), nor are they ‘favelas’ as one would see in South America. (Both terms may seem similar to the Western eye but a favela dweller would take unkindly to you calling where they live ‘a slum’, I can assure you!) So, what are they and what is the history behind the rise of these places in the landscape of the United Kingdom?

“Homes for Heroes”

This sounds like the perfect catchphrase for a modern politician, but it was actually first coined by a British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, shortly after The Great War. He wanted to make Britain, ‘a place fit for heroes to live in.‘ Of course, these were not the only factors at play for the rise of housing development in the years immediately after WWI. Granted, safe, affordable housing was needed for our returning war heroes, but this was coupled with the fear of the rise of Bolshevism among the poor and working class. Far too many in the UK were living in substandard, slum conditions, evidenced by the fact that over 10% of conscripts in the war were rejected on health grounds, as a direct result of squalid living conditions. There is a short clip here courtesy of BBC Scotland which gives an all too brief insight into the state of housing before WWI. Historians may argue the merits of each reason, but the fact remains that council housing in the UK was birthed in this political hot-house. Historians tell us that,

Prior to the First World War private builders supplied virtually all new housing in towns and cities. Due to the war building activity came to a virtual standstill whilst the country fought. By the time of the General Election in 1918 it was becoming clear that the country faced an acute shortage of housing and there were a great deal of slum areas. Since 1890, local authorities had the powers to clear slums and replace or refurbish existing homes but as now, not the funds.

Indeed, prior to WWI, 1% of the population lived in council houses and by 1938 that figure had risen to 10%. By the late 1970’s that figure would rise to 50%. The problem, post WWI, was that demand far outweighed the private sector’s ability to produce good quality, affordable housing on a mass scale. The Addison Act, passed in 1919, sought to remedy this by charging local authorities to ensure adequate housing for the ‘working class.‘ Of course, the dream of 1/2 million new homes to be built within 3 years, was completely unrealistic and unattainable. The Addison Act soon gave way to Neville Chamberlain’s act of 1923. A year later it was replaced by the Wheatley Act. Half a million homes were built in the end but it took until 1935 to achieve this figure. Seemingly great progress with two large problems.

  1. Demand was so high that these numbers still weren’t sufficient to meet Britain’s housing needs.
  2. The problems of inner city slums was still very evident even into the 1930’s. Tenements (run down, overcrowded apartment style houses occupied by multiple families sharing basic facilities), particularly in Scotland, were a blight on society and greedy landlords were still getting rich off the very poor.

An attempt was made to at least address the issue of the inner city slum areas.

Greenwood’s 1930 Housing Act was designed to address the problem. However, economic problems again had an adverse impact on clearance and replacement rates. Although an estimated 245,000 houses had been cleared by 1939, it was estimated that at least 472,000 slum houses were still in urgent need of demolition.

The effect of all of this rehousing? Surprisingly (or not), it caused a great deal of upheaval. The ruling class and the rich were largely unaffected but not so the working class and the poor who were uprooted from their homes – however slum like – and shipped out to new schemes (in their thousands), usually on the outskirts of the city/town centres.

Social surveys carried out during the inter-war period suggested that although tenants wanted new homes, many were reluctant to leave their communities where they felt secure amidst the established family and neighbourhood networks and where they could easily walk to work. Moving people to new estates involved the destruction of existing communities, created a sense of dislocation and isolation as well as placing greater pressure on the family budget because of increased travel costs.

People were generally forced to move against their will, although it has to be stated they were (in the main) relocated to far larger and more superior homes in cleaner, safer (though this point is arguable) areas. Another positive was that many people had now escaped the clutches of tyrannical private landlords and were treated with more fairness, had more civil rights, and had recourse to have any and all grievances heard, and acted upon, by their local authority/council. Eventually, the political furore died down, people settled and the future looked bright. That is until the intervention of war in 1939.

More to follow on the Post WWII years.