WHEN asked who, or what, is Bolton famous for, most people would reply Nat Lofthouse, Fred Dibnah, Peter Kay and, provided they had paid attention at school, Samuel Crompton, inventor of the Spinning Mule, which revolutionised production in the cotton industry, and William Lever, founder of the Lever Brothers detergent empire. Now there is another notable addition to the list: cannabis farms.

When I read the report of the latest police swoop, which uncovered £90,000 worth of the drug being produced in a large detached house, in Smithills of all places, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. You, too, no doubt.

It was situated in Capitol Close, just around the corner from Moss Bank Park, in one of the town’s more salubrious districts.

I don’t know how many such farms there are in Bolton, but figures issued by police reveal that more than 30 were discovered in 2007.

As the people responsible for these operations seem to be of Oriental origin, why are they choosing to establish cannabis production in Bolton, once the epicentre of the cotton industry which died, like so many others in the UK, after decades of global influence and dominance?

Could it be that they consider cannabis to be the next “cotton”, and, if so, will we get a statue of whoever is responsible for its most effective and sophisticated technology to stand alongside Samuel Crompton?

The more likely explanation is that for whatever reason, Lancashire in general, and Bolton in particular, is seen as a lucrative market for criminals involved in the production and distribution of drugs.

One need only scan the pages of this and similar publications to obtain confirmation of that statement.

While they may publicly question its veracity, in private most law enforcement agencies and political bodies concede that containment of the problem is the best they can hope to achieve. And even that is a barely-attainable target.