IT’S been something of a mixed bag as far as Warrington is concerned over the past couple of weeks.

Is the town on the up or is it about to slide into a pit of sin, degradation and a watery grave?

Or maybe it’s just a bit of both.

I was reading a business magazine recently (yes, what an exciting life I lead) that highlighted Warrington as one of the north west towns best placed to develop and expand as we go into a new decade.

It pointed out the town’s transport connectivity close to major motorways and how well served it is for rail transport including easy access to the West Coast mainline, putting London around two hours away, as well as the east-west rail service that connects the town to Liverpool and Manchester and beyond.

(Yes, I know from bitter personal experience that the train service is an absolute shambles and the motorways at rush hour can be like a linear car park.

(I’m only quoting what it said in the report so don’t shoot the messenger.)

The report also cited the ‘exciting’ Time Square development and the increase in the number of town centre apartments, including the new construction taking place next to Central Station.

Apparently, after years of driving people away from living close to the centre of town, the big push these days is to get young professionals with money to spend back living close to the centre of things.

It seems the young aren’t that interested in car ownership and want to be within walking distance of their trendy bars and restaurants.

All well and good then.

And despite my doubts about the viability of the Time Square scheme, it looks like my fears could well have been misplaced.

The gentrification of the town centre, turning it into a ‘family friendly’ place, continues apace with the Warrington Guardian reporting that two new businesses have signed on the dotted line and will be moving in.

The first deal is for one of the restaurant units close to Cineworld, while the second is for a ‘niche leisure operator’ who specialises in ‘family-focussed activity centres’ and is said to be a premium quality brand wishing to ‘roll out a newer concept’ in family leisure.

(I can’t wait to see what this concept is.)

At a recent council meeting, Cllr Hitesh Patel, the exquisitely titled cabinet member for ‘transformation’ said: “I think a lot of people in Warrington will quickly forget just how bad the town centre was after sort of 7 o’clock at night on a Friday and weekend – and what it’s going to be in the future is so, so different.”

Let’s hope so, Cllr Patel, let’s hope so because mixed in with all the good news was some less good news.

My thanks to Local Democracy Reporter Aran Dhillon who reported from a health and wellbeing board at the Town Hall and gave the grim details that a ‘significant number’ of prostitutes are operating in Warrington town centre and that organised criminal activity involves a wide range of crimes including theft, drug dealing, money laundering, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and modern slavery.

Martin Cleworth, head of Warrington Police, told the meeting: “It is not facing a unique problem but Warrington is particularly well placed for organised crime to exploit people.

“What we are seeing is increased exploitation of children through the drugs market, county lines, and increased exploitation and trafficking of adults into the town, particularly for labour markets and also for the sex industry.”

Yes, it would appear those excellent transport links the experts go on about are being put to uses other than commuting to Manchester or going for a day trip to London.