Council flats on the Vennel, Greenock, by Frank C. Mears
Frank Mears was appointed planning consultant to the Corporation of Greenock in 1940. It was the only consultancy in which he directly confronted the problems of the industrial west of Scotland. The plan he prepared, entitled Greenock: Portal of the Clyde, was published in 1947. It outlined a programme for the long-term development of the part of Renfrewshire lying to the north of a line between Kilmacolm and Wemyss Bay. Besides Greenock, it encompassed the burghs of Port Glasgow and Gourock and the villages of Inverkip and Wemyss Bay.
During the Depression, the slump in shipbuilding had resulted in high levels of unemployment in Greenock and Port Glasgow. As in Scotland’s mining areas, reliance on a single heavy industry had resulted in a particular vulnerability to recession. Mears argued that future security depended on diversification of the area’s industrial base, with particular emphasis on the creation of employment for women.
On the basis of an analysis which traced Greenock’s history to its 18th century origins, Mears concluded that the town should should seek to build on its long-standing local industries based on tobacco, sugar, distilling and marine engineering, and that priority should be given to industries geared to export.
Clyde Valley Regional Plan, 1949
Patrick Abercrombie’s Clyde Valley planning team had identified a serious deficiency of open spaces in the lower part of the town. In Greenock: Portal of the Clyde (1947) Mears proposed redevelopment at lower densities, the creation of new industrial areas, and accommodation of the displaced population in a constellation of new neighbourhoods laid out in the Kip Valley on American Parkway lines to create a “federal Garden City”.
Mears also prepared layouts and designs for council housing in Greenock and a scheme for the redevelopment of part of the town centre which had been badly damaged by wartime bombing.
Mears’ proposals for Greenock received considerable publicity. The work of the documentary film-maker John Grierson had stimulated an interest in film-making in Scotland. The Scottish Office had been quick to appreciate the usefulness of film as a means of informing and influencing the public and had sponsored a number of documentaries on aspects of social and economic reconstruction. Inspired by these precedents, in 1948 Greenock Corporation commissioned a documentary film on Frank Mears’ planning work in the burgh to complement an exhibition in the Town Hall. Greenock Plans Ahead was directed by Hamilton Tait and narrated by Frank Phillips.