RESIDENTS have been told that more travellers are coming to Warrington because it has not got a transit site.

Almost £2 million has been set aside in the Labour-run authority’s capital budget for the facility, which Town Hall bosses believe will reduce the number of costly unlawful encampments in the borough.

A future transit camp would allow officers to direct groups to the land.

As reported in March, a secret shortlist made up of potential locations has been finalised.

The sites being considered remain a closely guarded secret, however, any proposed location would have to come before the executive board for approval.

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During this week’s leader’s forum at Birchwood Community High School, council leader Cllr Russ Bowden (LAB – Birchwood) told residents trying to explain the ‘very real limits’ the authority has within its powers to deal with gypsies and travellers is the ‘biggest hurdle to get across’.

He said: "It has been quite obvious to me for a long time that we need to get on the front foot and have a proactive way of dealing with it.

"I am absolutely convinced that making provision for a transit site in Warrington is the right thing to do.

"That is the only way in which we give the council and police more powers to deal with gypsies and travellers.

"The real issue is how difficult is to find a site which is going to be genuinely acceptable to people.

"It is a really difficult issue because what you are trying to do is to reassure settled residential communities about what you are doing, while trying to avoid that clash all of the time between travellers and the settled communities."

Deputy leader Cllr Cathy Mitchell (LAB – Burtonwood and Winwick) also commented on the issue.

She said: "More of them are coming here because we have not got a transit site."

Despite criticism from residents across the town over setting aside funds for the site, Cllr Bowden says Town Hall chiefs believe the transit model 'works well'.

He also expressed concerns over 'some of the worst life outcomes' facing gypsies and travellers – including around infant deaths, life expectancy, suicide and education.

"There is a lot of stuff stacked up against them," he added.

"I don’t think it is beyond us, as a decent society, to make provision for them and that is what a transit site is going to be."