Flats sell for £7k on crime-hit estate that council wants to bulldoze

Inside Scotland’s ‘Chernobyl’ estate: How just TWENTY people now live in 400 rundown flats in ex-shipyard community that council wants to bulldoze – but its defiant handful of residents are refusing to leave

  • Clune Park estate in Port Glasgow was once a thriving community housing hundreds of shipyard workers 
  • But it is now home to only 20 people in a handful of the 430 flats and is at risk of ‘catastrophic collapse’
  • Property on the estate was once the cheapest in Britain, with one flat selling for just £7,000 at auction
  • But it has been plagued by arsonists and vandals with shops, a primary school and church all boarded up
  • Council leader: ‘It is a decimated, isolated community. It would remind you of somewhere like Chernobyl’

It was once a thriving community housing hundreds of shipyard workers in the area’s golden age of shipbuilding after being built in the 1920s. 

But the Clune Park estate in Port Glasgow is now of Britain’s last ghost towns which is home to only around 20 people living in a handful of the 430 flats and has been described as being at risk of ‘catastrophic collapse’. 

Property on the estate was once the cheapest in Britain, with one flat selling for just £7,000 at auction – but it has been plagued by arsonists and vandals with shops, a primary school and church all boarded up and abandoned. 

The photographs will inevitably invoke comparisons to the appearance of Chernobyl and the abandoned towns around it such as Pripyat following the devastating nuclear power plant disaster in Ukraine in April 1986. 

Clune Park, Port Glasgow has been described as ghost town with a school, church, shops, and hundreds of flats abandoned

There are only a handful of people left in one of Britain’s last ghost towns, which is said to be at risk of ‘catastrophic collapse’

The Clune Park estate about 20 miles west of Glasgow is characterised by smashed windows and overgrown greenery


Jim Cameron, 60, is one of the few residents left. Despite warnings about the state of the buildings, he insisted: ‘But it’s safe’

The Clune Park estate in Port Glasgow once housed hundreds of shipyard workers in the area’s golden age of shipbuilding

In the past eight months, arsonists have started 14 fires there and thieves looking for scrap metal to sell have smashed through walls in abandoned buildings.

But plans to bulldoze the tenement blocks has resulted in a long and bitter battle between Inverclyde Council and private landlords refusing to sell up.

Despite stark warnings that the conditions are not suitable for habitation, a handful of residents are clinging on – kept there either by the astonishingly low rents, or an unwillingness to leave.

With rents as low as £250 for a one-bedroom flat, within easy reach of Glasgow, the estate has become an unlikely commuter belt for those brave enough to stay there.

Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe said: ‘It is a decimated, isolated community. It is a blight on the landscape. It is one of first things you see coming into Port Glasgow on the train. It would remind you of somewhere like Chernobyl.’

Julie Kane, 56, has lived on the estate for two-and-a-half years after moving from the idyllic Isle of Skye where she lived for more than 20 years. 

She pays £250 per month for her one bedroom flat and despite thinking the area was like a ‘mini Beirut’ when she moved in, she loves her home and finds the area ‘peaceful’.

Property on the estate in Scotland was once the cheapest in Britain, with one flat selling for just £7,000 at auction

The desolate area is home to only around 20 people living in a handful of the 430 flats despite it being close to Glasgow

The area has been plagued by arsonists and vandals with shops, a primary school and church all boarded up and abandoned

Clune Park Public School in Port Glasgow was still a working school until 2008, when it was amalgamated with two others 

Ms Kane, who is originally from Yorkshire, said: ‘I’ve got connections in Glasgow through family and was going to move into Glasgow city centre but the rents were outrageous.

‘Somebody said try over here and at first when I saw the place I thought ‘Oh my god, a mini Beirut’.

‘At that point there was a lot of complaints from tenants about drug addicts and things but the flat was brilliant for the price so I thought I’d give it six months and I’ve been here ever since.

‘I was like ‘my goodness, I can actually stay here and work’, and have gone down to part-time because of my cheap rent.’ 

She would like to see the estate occupied by working people seeking affordable rents – and strongly believes money should be invested to bring the buildings up to scratch.

Ms Kane said: ‘When I first moved in I was a bit wary, there were junkies and gangs on the street. There was open prostitution and drugs going on, but that’s all gone. I’ve no fear of walking around – it’s peaceful.’

In just eight months, arsonists have started 14 fires and thieves looking for scrap metal to sell have smashed through walls

Plans to bulldoze the blocks have resulted in a long and bitter battle between Inverclyde Council and private landlords

Despite stark warnings that the conditions are not suitable for habitation, a handful of residents are clinging on

Those who still live in the blocks are kept there either by the astonishingly low rents, or an unwillingness to leave

Thieves looking for scrap metal to sell have smashed through walls in abandoned buildings, while windows are also broken

But Inverclyde Council, which described the estate as a ‘festering wound’ and warned of a risk of ‘catastrophic collapse’ and ‘potential tragedy’, estimated ten years ago that costs of renovation would be £36.5million.

The local authority has bought 165 of the flats and issued ‘closing orders’ – meaning the homes cannot be inhabited – on another 90.

Ms Kane said: ‘I look around and wonder why it was allowed to get in this state. My tenement is full so we’ve got a lovely community there. 

‘Most of us are working in my block and I’d like to see more people come in like that who want affordable housing and want to work.’

In 2011 a regeneration plan was agreed by the council, and three years later a compulsory demolition order was issued after the renovation of the flats was ruled out due to costs.

With rents as low as £250 for a one-bedroom flat, the estate has become an unlikely commuter belt for those brave enough

One woman said she thought it was a ‘mini Beirut’ when she moved in, but she loves her home and finds the area ‘peaceful’

The local authority has gradually been buying up properties across the five blocks but some landlords have refused to sell up


Inverclyde Council says all of the flats on the estate don’t meet the basic requirements to be classed as fit for people to live in

Inverclyde Council has insisted that ‘large-scale, planned intervention is urgently needed’ at the Clune Park estate

But it was fought viciously by landlords owning 96 properties, around a quarter of the total – and in 2016 a sheriff revoked the order.

Jim Cameron, 60, who has lived on the estate all his life, said: ‘All the houses were full when I stayed on Montgomery Street, then I got married and moved over the street.

‘Maxwell Street used to be a good street but now it’s a dive.’

Despite warnings about the state of the buildings, he insisted: ‘But it’s safe.’ 

The local authority has gradually been buying up properties across the five blocks but some landlords have refused to sell up, demanding more cash. 

The council sad it is working towards demolishing all the buildings and clearing the site to allow the area to be regenerated

Ten years ago it was estimated that it would cost £36.5million to refurbish the buildings on the estate in Port Glasgow

The council has said that the ‘only future for these homes is demolition and, frankly, the sooner the better’

Pensioner Marie Morrison, who has lived in the area for nearly 40 years, believes the warnings are justified but refuses to move regardless. She said: ‘I don’t feel it’s safe to live around here.

‘These houses are going on fire quite regularly, there was one the other week. A lot of people are saying it’s deliberate.’

Councillor Michael McCormick from Inverclyde Council said: ‘In the council’s opinion all of the flats on the estate are Below the Tolerable Standard (BTS) – they don’t meet the basic requirements to be classed as fit for people to live in.

‘And the results of several, recent, independent surveys have done nothing to change this view.

The Clyde has been a centre for shipbuilding for hundreds of years but had its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Hundreds of shipbuilders lived in the Port Glasgow area, but the industry went into decline following the Second World War

The Harland and Wolfe shipbuilding yard on the Clyde is pictured in the early 1960s when the industry was facing trouble

‘The poor physical and social conditions in the area, combined with the level of input required from Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue and Inverclyde Council, clearly shows that the private housing market has failed and that large-scale, planned intervention is urgently needed.

‘Six buildings now have active Demolition Orders against them. The council is working towards demolishing all the buildings and clearing the site to allow this neglected part of Port Glasgow to be regenerated.

‘A decade ago it was estimated that it would cost £36.5million to refurbish these buildings. They have deteriorated even more since then. We are making steady progress in terms of acquiring these undesirable properties.

‘But the remaining owners need to recognise that the only future for these homes is demolition and, frankly, the sooner the better.’   

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