Alternative Hamilton Masterplan

Hamilton – Alternative Masterplan (colour-coding adapted from SLC plan)

In March 2024, South Lanarkshire Council announced plans for major redevelopment of Hamilton town centre. It’s my home town and I don’t agree with everything in the official plans so here I propose an alternative Hamilton masterplan.

Shop unit in the Regent used for masterplan consultation, March 2024
An empty Regent shop unit was used for drop-in consultation events during March 2024

The council plans seem to be led by the same team who worked on plans for East Kilbride and has similar themes.

What the plans get right:

  • Demolishing most of the shopping centres – obviously, they’ve been struggling since stores like BHS, M&S and Wilko closed. Big empty units are hard to repurpose so need redeveloped.
  • Building housing – more residents would bring life back to the town centre and be customers to the shops/services.
  • ‘Active frontages’ (ground floor shops) – these can help smaller businesses and improve feeling of personal safety (‘eyes on the street’). Especially ones that open into the evening, like food outlets.
  • Adding green spaces – there’s hardly any greenery in the middle of the town centre.
View from end of Townhead St across Regent car park, back of former Wilko store and clump of trees surrounded by security fence. Hamilton town centre
Hamilton, South Lanarkshire: lots of space for cars and empty stores – trees are marginalised

What the plans get wrong:

  • Keeping the same road layout – the current roads were adapted from the old one-way system in the 1990s. The A723 dual carriageway severs the town centre from the neighbourhoods of Barncluith and Silvertonhill. It’s a barrier to walking and cycling and being surrounded by road noise would make the new housing less attractive. Also, bus stops are mostly around the edge of the town centre, which are less convenient for passengers.
  • Rebuilding multi-storey car park in same location – on wrong side of A723 from shops. Even if there are fewer places to park, many drivers will want to park closer to shops. The (free) residents parking, closer to Quarry St, is likely to be abused by shoppers.
  • Getting rid of all indoor space – the town centre still needs somewhere to shelter with toilet facilities.
  • Getting some housing locations wrong – student flats next to a church? ‘Later Living’ facing a dual carriageway?
  • Lack of protected cycleways – these have a kerb or other barrier to separate them from pavement/road. They’re safer for cycling and SLC have already installed some in East Kilbride. They have a network plan for Hamilton but don’t seem to be following that or national design guidance.
  • Mostly shared paths – these mix people walking and cycling. That can work on quiet paths but in a town centre they’ll be busier and cause conflict. People on foot won’t like bikes being close to them (when they may not hear them coming). People cycling won’t like having to weave between objects, adults/children and dogs.

Opportunities

Redeveloping the Regent shopping centre gives the chance to re-align roads. That would begin to stitch the town centre back together with neighbouring areas, instead of it being an ‘island’. That’s important for a sense of community in general and for walking and cycling in particular. Hamilton town centre is at the north-east corner of the town. It needs good links to neighbouring areas to start building a network of routes further out towards Udston, Earnock or its new Community Growth Areas.

The header image on this page shows an alternative Hamilton masterplan (PDF version).

Advantages of alternative plan

Roads and paths

  • Simpler, safer junctions – both Townhead St/Low Patrick St and the Top Cross junction have road safety issues with their layout. Quite a few drivers have followed the wrong green light, going into the path of turning traffic and causing collisions. Making the Top Cross a more regular t-junction means it’s more intuitive for turning drivers to wait for their right filter light. Moving the Townhead St junction allows for a straighter road and clearer signals. A new, direct link road between them would take most of the current traffic and cut out the High Patrick St junction.
  • Fewer ‘through roads‘ – stopping up Duke St at the Top Cross is crucial as it makes the junction and traffic light sequences simpler. Once Duke St is no longer a major through road, it will have lighter traffic, mostly for access. This could be reduced further if the shortcut/’rat run’ up High Patrick St was filtered at the rail bridge. Large, removeable planters would stop car traffic but allow wheeling/cycling (and could be moved for diversions).
  • More direct crossings – removing as many traffic islands as possible to make single, direct crossings. This avoids pedestrians having to wait two or three times to cross the road.
  • More walking and cycling links – protected cycleways and wider pavements make it safer and more pleasant around the town centre. So, more people who are able to walk and cycle will be likely to try it. Getting rid of the M&S building allows more direct paths into the town centre, which should increase footfall. Linking these into mini-networks increases the effect.
Duke St, Hamilton from traffic island between former M&S building and multi-storey car park
Alternative plan keeps carriageway on right as access road with crossing. Left-hand carriageway would be reused as protected cycleway and widened pavement

Car parking

  • Put car parking closer to the shops – build a new multi-storey car park behind the current backcourts of Quarry St. If it’s the closest, most convenient option then it’s more likely to be used. It would be in the footings of the current Regent Shopping Centre. So, there’s scope to use the depth for basement/underground parking (as happens even in smaller towns in Europe). Screening off the car park from the road with trees would further reduce its visual impact.
  • Parking under housing for higher density – basement/ground floor parking would reduce the need for surface car parks. This happens in many developments on Glasgow’s riverside and elsewhere. It would allow more housing/greenspace to go in a smaller area.

Public space

  • Freeing up space – less traffic means Duke St only needs to be one lane each way (apart from turning lanes). The other side of the carriageway can be converted quite cheaply into a protected cycleway or an extended pavement. It could also be turned into greenspace or a Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) to help prevent flooding. Removing the High Patrick St traffic island (and nearby bus stop) means it could revert to two lanes. The third lane could be converted into a protected cycleway from the rail bridge round to Miller St. More space on Low Patrick St could be used to re-align the road and plant trees in front of the blocks of flats which overhang the wall.
  • Reducing pinch points – the eastern corner of High Patrick St is an important link between Barncluith and the town centre. Also, it’s on the walking/cycling route from Silvertonhill to Chatelherault Country Park. Less traffic means part of the carriageway could be converted into an extended pavement. There’s another pinch point at the Top Cross on Brandon St – having a gentler turn leaves more space around this busy corner.
An e-bike user going past the pinch point at corner of Quarry St and Brandon St
The current road layout creates a pinch point at corner of Quarry St/Brandon St – changing the angle on Brandon St would leave more space

Public transport

  • More convenient bus stops – for people who struggle to walk far. Lanarkshire’s population is ageing so it makes sense for buses to be as direct as possible and pick up shoppers close to the shops. The new road would allow bus stops close to the Top Cross and Townhead St. The existing eastbound Townhead St bus stop could potentially be retained.
  • Shifting buses off Cadzow St – the eastern, 1-lane part of Cadzow St, between Leechlee Rd and the Bottom Cross, has the nicest ‘streetscape’ in the town centre. While there are issues with empty buildings, it has potential for being pedestrianised for events. However, it is still the main bus/coach exit route from Hamilton. Often, due to traffic light sequences, three or four buses will come along Cadzow St at once. The new link road would take most buses/coaches and make this bit of Cadzow St quieter and encourage more use of outdoor seating.
  • Avoiding delay on Keith St – while Leechlee Rd and Cadzow St may be quite clear for buses, they can get held up at Keith St. It’s the only arm of the roundabout without its own traffic light. There aren’t many gaps in the traffic so buses often have to wait.
Buses queueing on Cadzow St, Hamilton
Queues of buses can dominate Cadzow Street – probably the nicest actual street in Hamilton, even if some buildings are run down

Shops/facilities

  • Keeping indoor facilities – re-using a section of mall at Regent Way would help with weather and reduce ‘carbon footprint’ of construction work (with new glazed wall/doors added at southern end). This could also retain the toilets near to the new bus stop at Townhead St.
View down Regent Way, Hamilton towards glazed entrance of Regent Shopping Centre
Keeping part of the mall on Regent Way could offer toilet facilities and shelter from bad weather – could also create access to the new car park behind Quarry St

Accessibility

  • The smooth floor and step-free entrances in an indoor mall are good for mobility scooter and wheelchair users (especially those who self propel). Stone paving may look nice but can be uneven and slippery – tarmac tends to be better for wheelchairs and people with mobility aids (like zimmers/walkers).
  • Using lines of trees and bins, benches, etc. (‘street furniture’) to segregate people from cars/vans should help blind/visually impaired people. Ideally, all roads would have kerb edges with a height difference they could detect with their cane. Currently, sections of Quarry St and Cadzow St have no/flat kerbs.
A white stick user on Quarry St, Hamilton
A white stick user on Quarry St, Hamilton – they may feel safer staying close to the buildings (the ‘shoreline’) since there’s no kerb

Housing locations

  • Better matching housing to location – student flats seem better suited to being next to a main road (new link road with shops/cafes/bars at ground level). The ‘Later living’ flats would probably fit well with the setting of St John’s Parish Church (and may be more dementia-friendly).

Greenspace

  • Add greenery to the heart of the town centre – taking inspiration from the ‘Great Avenue’ of trees between Chatelherault and the former Hamilton Palace. Double rows of street trees would help with flood protection, shade and can improve wellbeing.
  • Add more hedge-protected cycle lanes – the arrangement on Leechlee Rd works fairly well and could be applied elsewhere in the new development.
  • Improve link to Strathclyde Park – adding protected cycle lanes on Townhead St and Castle St could link to the existing route to the park via Church St/Grammar School Square. A further protected cycleway from the Muir St traffic lights into the park would improve access.
  • Investigate links to Cadzow Glen – this underused greenspace along Cadzow Burn goes under the bridge on Cadzow St. It suffers from anti-social behaviour and the only nearby access is from the north (Church St/Grammar School Sq/Back Row). Easier access from the town centre would increase footfall and reduce issues. There’s potential for a path from Hope St or Auchingramont Rd car park. Also, there may be possibilities from Brandon St/Brandon Gate (going under the closed Strathmore Rd/Hope St footbridge). Narrow footbridges over Cadzow Burn need upgraded.
Lines of trees/hedges along the shared path on Leechlee Rd
Leechlee Road – making the junction split evenly (one lane each way) would allow path to continue instead of cycle route going down a narrow alley

Artwork

Wherever possible, the five-petalled flower (‘cinquefoil’) and shield from the Duke of Hamilton’s coat of arms should feature in street art/infrastructure. For example, one flower across the new link road roundabout (perhaps in white/red brick). Previous initiatives (like ‘Hamilton Ahead’, It’s HamiltON’, etc.) haven’t captured the imagination. Using elements from the coat of arms would be a more subtle and meaningful way of branding the town (also linking back to the days of Hamilton District for older residents).

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