Thanks to Dave for submitting this story. The image is of Lumbertubs estate when it was newly built.

I was a kid growing up in the ‘60s on the Eastfield estate – then on the Eastern edge of town and I have nostalgia for the fields, spinneys and streams between there and Overstone.

As I started work, the Weston Favell Shopping Centre and Lings Forum opened. Does anyone remember the visit by Pan’s People c ‘76? Woo. I found it quite exciting with the tube bridges and the Lumbertubs Way “motorway”- which became the new border between old town and the Eastern Development in my mind.

I wasn’t bothered at the time that the small idyllic (in some eyes) market town was taking the cash to become an overspill town. As some have said, and to be Devil’s advocate, the choice was economic development and progress etc or to stay as a declining, along with the boot and shoe industry, stagnant backwater?

However, my opinion was probably changed somewhat by a decade of policing the town from 1975, mainly on the continually expanding East side. We joked at the time about architects getting prizes for estates of high-density social housing with myriad rat runs and alleys – presumably built as cheaply as possible, before “designing out crime” was a concept.

Most mornings the builders’ compounds and part-built houses seemed to have been pillaged. There appeared to be a lag in infrastructure and resources being provided to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population – one example being reliable police radio coverage: single crewed officers had lots of challenges and sometimes had a very long wait for back up to arrive.

Of course, the majority of incomers were perfectly normal hardworking folk who didn’t deserve any hostility or resentment from NIMBY locals, but cops had more contact with the minority – the imported career criminals and what we now call antisocial types and problem families. I’m not aware of any vetting and barring but imagine some authorities strove to export their problems.

In the early days though, I believe it was routine to check records to see what issues new tenants would bring. That was soon deemed to be “not cricket”, so all arrivals were unknown quantities until their first contact with the constabulary – by which time the bad apples had spoiled others in the barrel and probably filled their boots committing crime. Ultimately these were no different to the homegrown baddies but less familiar and visible, so harder to tackle.

Before Weston Favell Policy Station was opened, I spent some time in the early ’80s working as a Detective and then Beat officer at “The Arbours” or “Burrows Court Section”. A few area beat officers covering the estates and a couple of detectives were housed in a converted barn to be closer to the patch rather than Campbell Square. There were limited opening hours for the public to attend the office for interviews or mundane enquiries like making lost and found property reports, with the beat officers taking turns to staff the counter.

For major incidents, such as murders, sometimes ad hoc incident rooms were set up in vacant houses in the Eastern District and the extra cops involved were fed at the Tesco canteen at the Weston Favell Shopping Centre!

I suppose the majority of new residents came from Greater London, but I believe there were many from Birmingham and further afield eg Newcastle, Glasgow, too? Maybe the numbers arriving, and slow integration did for hometown pride and a sense of community – or maybe that was going anyway.

50 years on I’m not sure whether the Eastern expansion was good or bad for the town overall; we locals with rose tinted specs aren’t the most objective judges…