WARRINGTON’S growing cultural and heritage offer has been recognised in a national study – 14 months after the town was shamed.

Last September the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) placed Warrington at number 320 out of 325 overall in its Heritage Index, with the town coming bottom in the ‘assets’ category.

The rankings sparked a public backlash, with many slamming the data gathered, and resulted in the borough hitting the national headlines.

RSA associate director Jonathan Schifferes also admitted the town had been ‘underestimated’.

The council, Culture Warrington and residents rallied around to ensure this year’s standings would improve – and the efforts have paid off, with the town now 296th overall.

The RSA, which collaborated with the Heritage Lottery Fund to produce the index, assessed Warrington’s heritage assets are worthy of climbing 21 places, taking the town up to position 304 out of 325.

Furthermore, the increased heritage activities on offer propel the borough 81 places up the activities rankings to 193.

Warrington was also ranked outside of the bottom 10 in all categories of the study, which launched last year.

The RSA has applauded the work of the council and Culture Warrington for the ‘positive steps’ taken to ‘improve access’ to heritage.

Despite the dramatic improvements Cllr Tony Higgins, executive board member for culture, leisure and communities, is eyeing further recognition.

He said: “Everybody who lives and works in Warrington knows we have a cultural and heritage offer that grows stronger by the day.

“Over the past year we have worked closely with our partner, Culture Warrington, to develop an active programme of events and activities, which highlight our heritage and culture.

“2017 is set to be very exciting for Warrington as we celebrate our 170th anniversary with a range of special events.”

The annual index combines more than 100 data sets with a range of indicators including nature reserves, heritage open days, archaeological groups, blue plaques and pubs that have been given protection as community assets.

As well as inherited physical assets, it measured new forms of heritage activity including community initiatives and volunteering.

Maureen Banner, chairman of Culture Warrington, added: “As well as hosting numerous heritage events over the past 12 months, we have worked with an artist and young carers in Warrington to design and install a huge mural on the side of one of Warrington’s most iconic buildings.”

City of London again came in first in the overall standings, Kensington and Chelsea second and Westminster third. Knowsley came in at 323rd, with Slough 324th and Luton bottom at 325th.

In this year’s index far more data was analysed.

It included more than 140,000 ancient trees, 355 square miles of open access National Trust land, 65,000 war memorials, 400,000 listed buildings, 10,000 conservation areas, 5,000 heritage open days and one million archaeological finds.

Mr Schifferes said: "We were impressed last year when Warrington citizens rallied around to understand how heritage could be better recognised and celebrated.

"Warrington is doing really well in terms of its heritage potential and making the most out of its assets.

"Last year, essentially, we could only build a data analysis on the quality of data we had.

"People have come on board and suggested better data.

"One of the striking points in Warrington was on canals but we now have better data to take them into account.

"The most important thing is to get people to understand it."