THERE can be little doubt that there’s a concerted effort to gentrify Warrington town centre.

In fact, cleaning up the town’s act is something that’s been going on for a number of years now.

I think the crime and public disorder issues that plagued Bridge Street and the surrounding roads town can be traced back to the relaxation of alcohol licensing laws in 2005.

With the end of afternoon closing and 11pm ‘drinking-up time’ closing, many of the town’s bars and clubs took advantage of the greatly extended opening hours).

And the responsibility for issuing or amending drinks licences also switched from magistrates – who tended to be quite strict, I seem to recall – to the borough council.

Interestingly, if you don’t like the decision made by the council, appeals are still heard by magistrates.

The upshot was the so-called night time economy in Warrington town centre became dominated by ‘vertical drinking’ establishments.

Which was fine if you were a 20-something intent on knocking back the shots until the early hours of the morning.

It was, however, far less attractive for families or couples who fancied a quiet meal.

Of course, canny entrepreneurs got around this by moving the more relaxed drinkers and diners away from Bridge Street to the Cultural Quarter and the evidence seems to be that move has been a success.

Which brings us to today. The Time Square development, with its family-friendly cinema, casual dining and the Altrincham Market-style food court, doesn’t really sit well with 24-hour party people fighting and throwing up their late-night kebabs, hence the efforts of the council and police to gentrify the area.

Frankly, I’m all in favour. Bridge Street has been a no-go area on a Friday and Saturday night for me for a long time now. But is the clean-up working? You would hope it is, so I was saddened to read on the Guardian’s website the latest figures relating to crime in the town.

The report reveals Warrington’s most dangerous streets, according to Cheshire Police’s crime statistics for 2019. figures showed that, for the second year in a row, Friars Gate was the town’s biggest hotspot for crime.

Nearly one incident was reported per day on the short stretch of road between Bridge Street and Barbauld Street, with a total of 285 over the 12 month-period.

And Bridge Street saw a crime reported almost every other day.

I was interested to see the quotes from Chief Inspector Simon Meegan, from Warrington Local Policing Unit, who said: “The majority of streets listed are near busy shopping centres or around the town centre and close to bars, clubs and restaurants.

“These types of areas tend to receive a higher proportion of reported incidents than others.

“The data itself doesn’t accurately show which streets are the most affected, it does however highlight which areas in the town are more affected by crime than others.”

That’s really not very good news for a town that wants to be family-friendly, is it?

While we’re talking about the town centre and Cultural Quarter, I nipped into town over the weekend to see the Eric Tucker retrospective at Warrington Museum before it finished.

Tucker, you will recall, is the ‘Secret Artist’ whose 400 oil and watercolour paintings – many depicting life in a bygone era of Warrington – were only discovered after his death at the age of 86 in July last year.

I’m glad I made the effort.

I think it’s fair to say I’m no art critic but Tucker’s atmospheric evocations of north west working class life were a joy to behold. I’d quite happily have one of them hanging over my mantelpiece and to see 70 of them on display was a real treat.

It also made me realise it’s years since I’ve been to the museum and I’d quite forgotten just what a little gem it is. It’s a precious thing for a town such as Warrington to have and we should treasure it.