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Comprehensive Development Areas:
An Overview

Inner Ring Road | Reports & Studies

Anderston Cross, Glasgow, Comprehensive Development Area Proposal (1967)

The Town & Country Planning (Scotland) Act of 1947 formed the basis of modern town planning in Scotland. The Act established that planning permission was required for land development and that ownership alone no longer conferred the right to develop the land. To control this, the Act reorganised the planning system, giving control of such matters to Scotland's county and burgh councils (as well as city corporations). It also required them to prepare a comprehensive development plan, which would be reviewed every five years.

Local authorities were given wide-ranging powers in addition to approval of planning proposals. They could carry out redevelopment of land themselves, or use compulsory purchase orders to buy land and lease it to private developers. They were also given powers to control outdoor advertising, and to preserve woodland or buildings of architectural or historic interest – the latter the beginning of the modern listed building system. 


In order to assist local authorities to carry out major redevelopment, the Act provided for extensive government grants. The Scottish Development Department offered a 75% contribution towards major roads projects for example.

Townhead and Royston, Glasgow, CDA Proposal (1965).

An illustration from 1965 showing plans for the Townhead and Royston areas of Glasgow. The demolition of old buildings, and construction of part of the Inner Ring Road, dramatically changed their character. 

The Act also allowed for the creation of Comprehensive Development Areas (CDAs). Such areas were earmarked for complete redevelopment and were utilised across the UK as a way of rebuilding areas of war damage or where existing housing and facilities were said to be of poor standard. In Scotland, CDAs were approved by the Secretary of State for Scotland following the completion of necessary surveys and feasibility studies. 

Glasgow Corporation fully embraced the concept, designating twenty nine CDAs across the city from the mid-1950s. These covered five square miles, 300,000 people, 2,500 industrial units and thousands of shops and other premises. In Glasgow there was a desire to reduce urban density, in some areas population densities of 400 people per acre were common. The Corporation was given grants to allow for the construction of satellite housing schemes such as Easterhouse and Castlemilk. These were built alongside the new towns of East Kilbride and Cumbernauld, both of which were key recommendations of Patrick Abercrombie's 'Clyde Valley Regional Plan' of 1949. The first CDA to be approved was at Hutchesontown in 1957. For twenty years between 1955 and 1975 the development of CDAs led to dramatic changes to the urban fabric of the city.

Glasgow's Comprehensive Development Areas in relation to the proposed roads system (1965).

A graphic from 'A Highway Plan for Glasgow', published in 1965, detailing the city's recommended roads system in relation to its Comprehensive Development Areas.

In Glasgow, it was accepted that a new road system would be required if the city was to adequately address its congestion problems and allow for future traffic growth. The CDAs offered an opportunity to locate new roads within areas earmarked for redevelopment, reducing costs associated with property acquisition and issues arising from community severance. New housing and facilities could be built away from these new roads, creating areas free of through-traffic.

Before the statutory procedures to establish the CDAs could be completed, it was necessary to prepare outline plans of the proposed developments. Since major roads would form a significant part of such plans, it was essential to decide what form they should take. For some years prior to 1960, there had been suggestions that an Inner Ring Road should be built, with a tentative line for the road included in the Development Plan of 1960.


Over eighty percent of the proposed road passed through CDAs, including those earmarked for Townhead, Cowcaddens, Anderston and Glasgow Cross. These areas were considered a priority by the Corporation, and so a study considering whether a ring road was justified was taken forward as a matter of urgency. Following extensive traffic surveys it was determined that the ring road should be constructed before 1975.


Had the Inner Ring Road been cancelled or built to a lesser standard, the CDAs in the north and west of the city would have gone ahead regardless.


The ring road was designed in sufficient detail by 1962 to enable it to be incorporated into the CDA plans. The Townhead, Cowcaddens and Anderston CDAs were approved between 1965 and 1968, allowing for the construction of its North and West Flanks. A study looking into the rest of the city's road system was completed in 1963, with the 'Highway Plan for Glasgow' report following in 1965.

List of Glasgow's Comprehensive Development Areas (1960).

By 1960, Glasgow Corporation had drawn up plans for twenty nine Comprehensive Development Areas across the city. Some were taken forward in full while most were abandoned or significantly cut back.

Comprehensive Development is now considered an outdated concept. By the mid-1970s, as government subsidies dried up, focus switched to the refurbishment and reconditioning of existing buildings. The public mood changed too, shocked by the scale of change in areas such as Gorbals and Pollokshaws, and by the perceived loss of community. In areas such as Partick, locals actively campaigned against the Corporation's proposals.


The abandonment of the CDAs planned for Glasgow Cross, Gallowgate, Bridgeton and Maryhill was a factor in the cancellation of the South and East Flanks of the Inner Ring Road, the Hamilton Motorway and Maryhill Motorway.

This article was first published in January 2023.

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