THIS week I want to cover a topic that was raised and discussed at length at a recent Leader’s Forum meeting: the question of a permanent transit site for travellers in Warrington.

As I said at the meeting, I firmly believe that we need to establish a transit site, which will give the police additional powers to direct groups and unauthorised encampments to a purpose-built location. The only way that we will be able to avoid the repeated clash with our residential communities and to assist travellers is by making transit provision. Somewhere that travellers can go when they come to Warrington, to ensure there is minimal disruption to neighbourhoods where, historically, travellers have pitched up.

The difficulty we face is finding the appropriate site and our work continues on this. But I’m confident that the benefits of allocating space for a transit site far outweigh any potential concern or negativity about travellers having an allocated place to stay in our town. We already expend valuable resources dealing with unauthorised encampments - now is the time to address the issue properly.

The travelling community in general feels some of life’s challenges more acutely. In comparison with the settled community, there are far higher rates of infant death, poorer educational attainment, lower life expectancy and a higher suicide rate, particularly amongst adult men. Warrington is blessed with decent, honest people, with a strong tradition of volunteering and looking after each other. We can extend that attitude to the travelling community by allocating a transit site, to be properly managed and where the costs are covered by travellers paying for the facilities provided.

What we owe to our established residents, neighbourhoods and communities is a transit site that supports community cohesion and keeps potential disruption to a minimum. Although we might face some difficult decisions, this is the right way forward, it is supported by the police and other partners and - most importantly - it is a much better solution that works for Warrington.

There’s still time for you to make your thoughts known about the draft Local Plan and Local Transport Plan (LTP4). The consultation window closes at 5pm on Monday 17 June. I’d like to thank the residents who have taken the time to attend the public consultation events and have generally engaged in good, positive and constructive discussion on the challenges that we face.

Finally, I’ll be heading out and about for more leader’s forum meetings in June and July, with the next forum meeting at Fearnhead community centre on Monday 24 June. I’ll announce further venues and wards in due course but I’d like to mention at this point how refreshing it has been speaking to residents across the borough about their many and varied issues and questions.