Ferguslie Park was built as a council housing estate, shortly before the Second World War and continued to expand until the 1950s. Ferguslie Park became a working class neighbourhood in the west end of Paisley, with residents working mainly in the huge Chrysler car plant in neighbouring Linwood, the nearby Stobo carpet factory and making textiles in the Ferguslie Mills.
The demise of the car factory has been commemorated in The Proclaimers' reference to "Linwood no more" in their hit song "Letter from America". Ferguslie had its own artists too. John Byrne lived in Ferguslie Park and his "Slab Boys Trilogy" of plays features rebellious carpet factory workers from the 1950s to the 1970s. The closure of traditional textile and manufacturing industries in the '70s and '80s led to widespread unemployment, poverty and stigma. Even so, Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan had success in the '70s with their band Stealers Wheel and their album covers, including "Ferguslie Park", were designs by John Byrne. Rafferty went on to great commercial success, including with "Baker Street". But Ferguslie Park continued to slide. Renfrewshire Council made many attempts to stem the growing unpopularity of the estate which was almost cut off from the rest of Paisley, intensifying its reputation as a no-go-area.
Ferguslie Park Housing Association was established in 1988 but we can trace our origins back a few years earlier to when our predecessors, Dalskeith Housing Co-operative and Westburn Woodvale Housing Association, were established. The Co-op was set up to acquire and improve homes from Renfrewshire Council. The Co-op and Westburn Woodvale Housing Association also began to build new homes. They combined, as part of the widest-ranging strategy to date, to regenerate Ferguslie Park. This was the New Life for Urban Scotland programme, in which Ferguslie Park was one of four areas facing deprivation which were identified for a new multi-agency and innovative area-based approach. FPHA was a partner in the Ferguslie Park Partnership; with the community, the council, Scottish Executive, health board and police. Significant progress was made in replacing unpopular council housing with new association homes, improving the remaining popular council homes, introducing owner occupation and shared ownership, building a new link road and improving the environment. The Tannahill Centre was built and John Byrne opened the new Community Library.
Late in 1994 Paisley suffered extensive and serious flooding. Ferguslie Park, being flat and low lying, experienced the most property damage. 250 homes were flooded; 100 of these so seriously that residents had to move out for around a year while they were repaired. Just before Christmas, this made national news. Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip visited Ferguslie Park the following summer to meet people who had been affected and to see the on-going repairs. This restricted sites for further house building. The Association built a pumping station in the lowest part of the area to help protect it should a similar event happen again.
From 1996 Ferguslie became part of the Paisley Social Inclusion Partnership. We became a founder member of FLAIR, the federation of local associations in Renfrewshire, set up to foster collaboration in the social inclusion partnership area, benchmarking and wider regeneration activity. FLAIR brought Youthbuild to Scotland – a ground-breaking partnership with Barnardo's supporting unemployed young people into construction apprenticeships in our house building projects. In 2006 we formed a Group with the New Tannahill Centre Ltd as our subsidiary. This was so we could combine our regeneration activities. For over 30 years, we have played a key role in the regeneration of Ferguslie Park, responding to the needs of the local community and the opportunities available for significant investment into the area. This has involved us in a range of high-profile programmes, many of which were trailblazing but some were ultimately short-lived. Housing has been transformed, there are low levels of crime and there is a strong community spirit. However, it has been much harder to improve health, educational attainment and to tackle poverty. The local primary schools remain well regarded and highly valued in the community but Ferguslie pupils still mostly underachieve at secondary schools. It is poor health and stubborn unemployment that distinguishes a few "datazones" in Ferguslie Park as repeatedly suffering the most deprivation in Scotland.
However, we are preparing Ferguslie Park Housing Association for what we believe will be a new and successful chapter in its history. This business plan recognises our key role in improving Ferguslie Park, our determination to increase our impact and our plans for delivering it.