There is a town in England you’ve probably never heard of before* which has a lot of similarities to Beeston…
It has the same number of residents, the same average household income, and is on the doorstep of a medium-to-large city, close to a campus university. The town in question is Waspton, and as well as having these things in common with Beeston, also has a lot of differences.
Like Beeston, Waspton has a mixed population of several ethnicities, students, young and old. However there is marked segregation in Waspton, with different groups of people confined to specific areas, with very little in the way of mixing going on. Students living in Waspton aren’t made very welcome, so tend to head into the city to spend their loans. There is a fair bit of racial tension, which is evidenced by graffiti which appears regularly on businesses owned by those from ethnic minorities.
Despite being only 5 miles out of the city, Waspton is poorly served by public transport. A ‘service’ is run by one of the national bus companies, which is notoriously unreliable and stops at 8pm. The railway station only sees a train stop there every couple of hours, and a return ticket to the city is very expensive (over £7 for an off-peak return). This means that most people have to get around by car, leading to a lot of congestion. Even short journeys take a long time in Waspton.
Waspton used to have many more pubs than it does now, just like Beeston. However, many more have closed and remained shut in Waspton. Most of them remain boarded up and are vandalised eyesores. The few pubs that remain are not very welcoming – all owned by big pubcos, lacking in character, charm and choice.
There are a dwindling number of restaurants in Waspton, which are fairly bog standard and unimaginative – a couple of Indians, a Chinese, and an Italian. None of them get top marks for food hygiene, and one of them is known locally as ‘The Gut Gamble’ because of a reputation for causing food poisoning.
There are however lots of kebab and fried chicken takeaways in Waspton, which are blamed for a lot of anti-social behaviour and litter. Again, none of them get 5 stars from the inspectors, and are responsible for a lot of poorly digestive systems in Waspton.
Just as Beeston does, Waspton has a Lidl, a small Sainsbury and a big Tesco which opened in 2010. The effect of these large retailers in Waspton has been catastrophic for local independents. Within three years of the Tesco opening, Waspton town centre was almost unrecognisable. Now just a mixture of empty units, bookies, payday loan companies, cash for gold and other pawnbrokers, there is little to draw people in from Waspton itself, let alone the surrounding area. Quite oddly, the one business which seems to still do OK there is one of those places where people put their feet into tanks of fish to have the dead skin nibbled off.
Waspton has a fairly high reported crime rate – around twenty times that of Beeston. Noticeable trends over the last few years have been an increase in hate crimes, assaults, muggings and thefts from vehicles. Many people in Waspton do not feel safe in the town centre at night, and the police presence is virtually nil.
The schools in Waspton aren’t anything to shout about, with ‘Good’ being the best Ofsted rating for one out of the 7 primary schools, the rest all being rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’. Of the two secondary schools, one of them is plagued with problems such as bullying, drug-taking, unexplained absences, and regular fights – this just refers to the teachers.
Waspton is very similar to Beeston in that the housing stock is predominantly a mix of Victorian, inter-war, and modern builds. What differs markedly is the house prices, which are around 50% higher on average in Waspton. As mentioned earlier, the average household income is the same in the two towns which mean home ownership is out of reach for a huge number of Wasptonians. Rents are correspondingly high too, particularly since a number of private landlords starting buying up large swathes of property several years ago.
Beeston’s most famous son is arguably the fashion designer Paul Smith, followed by the late, great actor Richard Beckinsale. Unfortunately Waspton has only produced a serial killer who murdered five prostitutes in the early 2000s, and Jonathan King’s former chauffer, who was jailed for several offences last year as part of the Operation Yewtree investigation.
All in all, Waspton is not a very pleasant place in which to live. There is very little in the way of entertainment, virtually no community spirit, locals are quite insular and mean-spirited, and incomers keep themselves to themselves as a result of the hostility they face. In contrast to Beeston, it is not somewhere that has a forward-looking feel. Inward investment is low, and a feasibility study into the building of a tram system was shelved halfway through due to local council budget cuts. Anyone who lives in Beeston who thinks that it isn’t up to much should spend a day or even just an afternoon in Waspton to see how good we have it just now.
*You’ve never heard of it because it is actually a made-up place comprising a lot of the rubbish features of Britain today.
JC & CT