Oil boom 'Ghost village' to be demolished

Gerrard Winstanley office at evnuk.org.uk
Wed Jun 24 13:31:32 BST 2009

'Ghost village' to be demolished
(click for video if you have broadband & horribly up-to-date browser)

Pollphail was built to house workers needed to construct concrete rigs

A village built in Argyll to meet the demands of the UK oil boom of the 1970s but abandoned without ever being occupied is set for a new role.

Pollphail at Portavadie was to house workers needed to construct concrete oil rigs, but the plan was abandoned.

The site's owner Alan Bradley said changes would start to be seen within a year as demolition clears the area for the first of 270 new properties.

The "ghost village" revamp has been in the planning process for nine years.

Mr Bradley said it could be five to 10 years before the redevelopment was completed.

Previous owners of the site on the Cowal Peninsula have included the failed bank, BCCI.

This is one of the most bizarre places I've visited in Scotland - and I've been to a few.

Keys still dangle on a board waiting for tenants who would never arrive. Coat hangers remain in cupboards and rusting washing machines stand idle, dreaming of their first spin cycle.

It's easy to write off the whole Portavadie development as a madcap government white elephant.

Yet the early 1970s were pioneering days for the fledgling UK oil industry and the government of the day would have been heavily criticised had it failed to grasp the nettle and provide construction facilities.

Had industry preferences been different, Portavadie might have become as important as Ardersier, Nigg and Methil, where thousands of workers built oil rigs and platforms for a generation.

With a top quality marina now open and plans to redevelop Pollphail village, some of that hoped-for prosperity may now be arriving by a different route.

The village - big enough to house 500 people - was built along with a dry dock as the UK government rushed to cash in on North Sea oil.

Similar yards were created at Nigg in Easter Ross and Whiteness, near Ardersier, in the Highlands.

Argyll and Bute councillor Bruce Marshall said the potential work for Portavadie dried up before the workers could arrive on site.

He said: "The houses were built, but the whole thing fell through and concrete oil rigs were no longer the flavour of the month.

"For the past 35 years these houses have been inhabited by sheep and bats and just fallen into disrepair."

The dry dock, meanwhile, has been turned into a marina.

Local photographer Philippa Elliott has documented the derelict site in a series of photographs.

Her images include a rack of door keys hanging disused and rusting washing machines.

She said some locals believed Pollphail was actually built as a military base on par with Faslane on the Clyde, but other suggestions for what the site was to be used for differ "depending on who you talked to".

Putting it to use for the construction of concrete rigs was always the last idea offered, the photographer said.

Efforts are also being made to breathe new life into the yards in the Highlands.

Government ministers have been urged to take a greater interest in efforts to put Nigg back into business.

Renewable energy

Highland Council has asked Enterprise Minister Jim Mather to chair a meeting discussing the future of Nigg.

It has also pressed Secretary of State Jim Murphy to encourage the UK Government to become involved.

Potential roles for the site include using it in the construction of renewable energy devices.

At Whiteness, situated on the shores of the Moray Firth, 2,000 homes are planned along with recreation, leisure and fitness facilities.

A marina for yachts and other craft would also be built.

The site's life as a construction yard ended in 2002 when owners J Ray McDermott closed it down following almost 30 years of activity.

At its height, there were more than 3,000 workers employed there. 

More information about the Diggers350 mailing list