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My name is Ian Andrews and I am not a native of Poole. I was born in Pinner, a suburb of N.W.London and my arrival coincided with the outbreak of war. My Father was in the food industry and didn’t get called up because he was in a reserved occupation. He spent the war doing his job but also became a member of the Observer Corps.
I went to a primary school at the age of 5. It was an old Victorian building but a good school. From there I went to Grammar School, Harrow-in-the- Hollow, which had a very good record. This school was a rival to Manchester Grammar and had a good academic record. We were encouraged to take our ‘O’ levels at 14 and then went onto 6th Form subjects which were Latin, Greek, English Literature and History. I had very gifted teachers.
It was 1957 and I was 18 when I went to Oxford. I had got my call-up papers but decided to take my place at Oxford. Some people did their National Service first but I opted for university and deferred my National Service. It was a three year course. I wasn’t sure what career I wanted to pursue. As I mentioned before my Father was in the food industry and was very interested in meat importing so had a lot to do with shipping lines. When I was about 13 I had a vague idea that I would be a Customs Officer – it seemed an interesting career. But also it always upset me when I saw injustice and so I thought I’d do Law. I was given some books to read prior to University and I thought I had made a fatal mistake. I was very apprehensive, but then I found I was in a small group, and we were all in the same position. We had a very good tutor who got us all going to the right lectures and coming out with good degrees. There were two ways to go with the degree – either be a solicitor or go the bar. The bar was not open to me because I had no contacts. To become a solicitor you had to pay for articles.
Unfortunately, my Father had his 1st heart attack while I was at university. I had got a state scholarship and my parents were helping to finance me through university so I wasn’t sure whether I could complete the course. I went to my Bank and they said they would finance me. So I was probably one of the first students to leave university with a degree and an overdraft.
I was one of the Grammar school boys up against the Public school boys. I had limited choice because I had to find paid employment. I could either go into local government or one of the big companies of industry such as ICI. I took advice on that – I had some contacts but no relatives who were lawyers. I was put in touch with the controller of the City of London, Sir Desmond Heap, who was a power in the early days of planning law. He advised me not to get a job in London but to look at a town wanting to expand and we looked at a list of towns where jobs were available. Poole was on the list and they were embarking on a large expansion (700 acres to be developed) which was the South Canford Heath development. This would reshape the town. I came to a town with a population of 80,000 and now it’s 140 to 150 thousand.
A lot of children did follow their parents into a family firm or family tradition. I wasn’t given any particular encouragement or discouragement to make a particular choice. It was my choice.
I got an interview in Poole and 70 people applied for the job. I got the job and became an articled clerk to the Town Clerk, John Hillier. He put me in at the deep end and threw work at me that most people didn’t see for 5 years. You did all your own training while doing the job, i.e. correspondence courses, in your own time. There were no sandwich courses as there are now. I got involved with electoral registrations and electoral boundaries. I cycled around doing this and it was a good way of getting to know the town. I was the first graduate they employed.
The background to the job allowed me to go into the Magistrates Court for simple cases. There were a lot of preliminary negotiations for a major development and compulsory purchase came into this.
My arrival coincided with a new department of Borough Architect and planning, and they produced in-house designs for schools and housing. We didn’t want just council housing – we wanted the private sector to come so that there would be a mixed development. Poole wasn’t an overspill area and it wasn’t a new town. Everything that Poole did was done by them. We didn’t go to the Government for money. Everything had to be done in a way that worked financially.
The reason that I had a year doing lots of different things was because of the decision to defer conveyancing of the land for a year. This was for tax reasons.
I was put in charge and asked for a team of officers who were dedicated to Canford Heath.
We had done lots of visits to New Towns such as Harlow. We learnt from their mistakes and their successes. There was a wealth of knowledge about reshaping the town. The view was that we were reshaping the whole town. The idea of sports centres was quite new. We were at the tail end of a slum clearance programme. I would go regularly with the Borough architect surveying the properties. People said we ruined the town but these houses might have been pretty from the outside but they were pretty awful inside. You could hear the movement behind the walls; they had wells and outhouses for toilets. We had a system where people could return to the town centre when we’d rebuilt, if they so wished. Some older people chose to return, but younger people were happier to stay in the new area, where the schools were better and there was more open space.
While I was at University I did other jobs to earn some money. I’ve done baby-sitting: I worked on the Christmas post: in the Paymaster General office: at the Stationery Office printing Hansard; worked in a firm making spark-plugs I also worked on the Sunday papers – they would employ 100 but take on just 10. But all 100 would be paid. These were some of the trade practises, which are now gone. I found it fairly easy to get temporary work in the vacation and most of these jobs were advertised.
I was helping to pay my way through University and I felt that I had to do what I could.
When I left University Poole became my employer. I was tied to them for 5 years. At the end of the 5 years I thought that I needed more experience of prosecution work and I would have to move on – probably to Birmingham.
Professional people in local government move around a lot. You reckon on doing 5 years and then gaining a promotion elsewhere. But I was lucky as the junior solicitor moved to another job, and after the usual interviews and selection I moved into that job. In local government you have the added dimension of politics and you find you have to get involved more with administration. Gradually, as you move further up the ladder you are doing more administrative jobs than law. Further up still you have the lawyers working for you. When you become Chief Executive the law work was all done in my name, but I had little to do with actually going to Court.
I moved my dedicated Canford Heath team out of the Civic Centre to an out of town office. One of the things we wanted was for the schools to be there before the housing. We didn’t want the children in the new houses being bussed to schools while their new schools were being built. Also for the shops and infra structure to be in place. We had planned playgrounds.
I was doing a lot of out-of-hours work with the community – helping set up committees. There were dances, talks, elderly people’s clubs and mother and baby groups. Getting them up and running was something I specialised in. Had it been left to the developers, there would have been nice-looking bungalows for elderly people. That wasn’t what we wanted. We wanted a mixed community – we wanted a cohesive community. We didn’t want old people stuck in a place miles away from any facilities. This was one of the first developments where people’s front gardens were not walled in. This gave a more rural and open aspect and was quite new at the time.
The Dolphin Centre and the Arndale Centre were underway and ultimately I was given the brief for a theatre and cinema for the town.
Certainly with the Canford Heath development they were glad to see me stay.
Softer technology industries were the future and we had to pitch to them. I was one of those who pitched to the companies. We showed them around, let them talk to the Education people and told them about the standards; talked about the labour market and labour rates. We didn’t win every time. Plessey was one of the biggest employers in the area.
We needed more hotels and we couldn’t get anyone to invest in hotels until we set up a consortium. The council wasn’t party to it but 3 bodies got together and decided to build a new hotel in the town centre because of the new businesses and people passing through – salesmen, colleagues etc. We needed the hotel rooms. The 3 people ran it for a few years, then the proprietor of a group of hotels happened to be stranded in Poole overnight and stayed in their hotel. After which he bought it.
I was doing unique things which I hadn’t any colleagues to turn to. In due course that involved the oil industry. There wasn’t a soul who had anything to do with extracting oil off-shore. I had to research and negotiate with the top-brass and legal teams of the big oil internationals, which was a steep learning curve. All the time it was a case of getting the best back for the community. You had to know how to negotiate, and how to get a good deal
Equally you have to learn how to work with volunteers. We are so lucky in this area – we have so many people with so many skills to offer.
I started my career finding my way around the office. This was for a couple of years whilst waiting for the big development to take off. For 10 years or so I was doing legal work. The team started developing in 1962 or 63. Then, of course, I was moving through the office doing jobs elsewhere; doing work with the business community and selling ideas to them. In 1974 when I became Chief Executive I got to spend time with getting to know all the private companies.
Engineering was in decline and we had to spot that and recognise where the future lay. That was when we got involved with firms moving out of other places. Ryvita had come to us; BDH had come and that led to more hi-tech industries making the move. We had firm moving out of London – London shed a lot of their population by big firms moving out. We got our fair share of them.
In the ‘30’s the town had little development because of the period of unemployment and very little money. They were consolidating what they had. They built good schools and they were getting well -qualified pupils leaving who had to leave the town to seek employment.
We had the same average age-groups as the national average, not as in Bournemouth or Christchurch which had more elderly people. Poole didn’t want to get the imbalance which causes a lot of stress on public costs for health and social services which have to be provided.
It is easy to build houses and factories, but difficult to build houses and factories and inter-relate them with services so that people live in a community, feel that it’s a community and act as if it was a community.
Poole was, for 10 years, the fastest growing town in England and the largest single mixed development of industry and housing. This was between 1965 -1975.