Thursday, 16 May 2013

In the Archives: The Official Record of the Livingston Development Corporation

As has been stated this blog is based on the records of the Livingston Development Corporation .  A lot of these posts have been based on records that no one thought would be useful to history at the time of their creation but were kept later because they revealed something about what had happened and why.
Very few archival collections are created with an eye for recording history for posterity. However, the LDC did create some records as a legal record of its actions. These parts of the collection are what I refer to as the official history – they would be the key resource, say, if anyone ever wanted to write a history of the organisation (there was, by the way  a book commissioned by the LDC called Livingston: The Making of the New Town, which his  very much an official history – it misses out all the juicy gossip).
Plan presented to the LDC board showing
layout of new golf course. c 1975
The most obvious series of official records are the minutes, papers and agendas of the Board Meeting of the Corporation. Every time a major decision was made in Livingston it had to be approved by the Board. The board consisted of about 7 members who were appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland and included industrial heavy weights and local councillors – people who could pull in investment in to the New Town.
Artistic impression of the then planned Pentland House, Livingston
town centre
The Board met every month and its meetings it set policy and strategic aims of the Corporation. Once this policy had been set it was down to the Chief Executive, the chief officers and other Corporation staff to interpret and enact the Board’s ideas. Every time a Chief Officer (housing, finance, planning etc) ever wanted a major undertaking to go ahead, he (they were all men...) had to get approval, first from the Chief Executive, and then from the Board.  Each month Corporation staff presented papers to the Board. Each paper was on a particular subject explaining its history and what they wanted to happen, and asking for their authorisation – in the process they recorded the history of the growth of Livingston.  We hold a comprehensive selection of these papers for later years, but, especially during the 1960s, the board papers are limited (we have a full run of minutes, but these can be brief compared to the papers)
The second major series we hold is again related to the Board, and these are the Board Drawings and Slides, which, again, are copies of maps and plans, either in hard copy or in slide format, which were presented to the Board on a particular subject and which needed Board approval.
Floor Plan for a community building in Ladywell, c. 1974
Some 17,000 Board Drawings were also deposited. In combination with the Board Minutes and Agenda/Papers, they are the most important and vital series of records produced by LDC. These are the presentation drawings of all construction, alteration and execution of works within the designation area. The drawings are a wonderful collection providing information on Architectural, Landscaping and Planning proposals, both approved and rejected over the years. It is unfortunate that the full series from the very earliest days of LDC has not survived, with c. 5 years from 1962 being incomplete. As the Board was the planning authority for Livingston, these board drawings are legal documents.
It is these few records – the board drawings and minutes – that were created with an eye on history. They are the official record of the Corporation’s activities, showing the Corporation as it wanted to be seen, both by the bodies who audited its activities and by later generations.

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