TRANSPORT chiefs have responded to speculation over a new multi-million pound bypass along the disused railway embankment in Latchford – and insist any highway plans 'are not set in stone'.

Campaigners have circulated thousands of letters to residents over the plans, while an objection group on Facebook has gained more than 3,800 members.

Information distributed to residents claimed 'there are proposals to accommodate a new high-level strategic main road' from Warrington waterfront, close to Bridge Foot, and along the route of the former railway embankment through Latchford, Grappenhall and Thelwall.

There have also been fears over the link road cutting through the Trans Pennine Trail, as well as the prospect of the embankment, north of Station Road, being 'widened to accommodate' a dual carriageway.

Amid the speculation, a principal transport planner at the council has accused campaigners of attempting to 'scare' residents into objecting to housing proposals in the local plan preferred development option.

John Webb, who has lived in Grappenhall for 10 years, e-mailed the senior officer to express his concerns.

He said: "I heard information over new housing and someone mentioned there would be a major new bypass that would affect Grappenhall, Thelwall and Latchford.

"I don't see it as scaremongering from people, I see it as people being genuinely concerned following a lack of information from the council.

"The biggest concern – if the bypass is built – would be the change to the area and increase in traffic flow, as well as the effect on people's homes."

But many residents have hit out after a screenshot of the council officer's response was posted on Facebook.

He said: "There is a leaflet being delivered to people's homes in the Grappenhall, Latchford and Thelwall area which is claiming that the council is proposing a road scheme along the disused railway line.

"I can assure you that this is not true.

"The leaflet has been produced by people who are objecting to the proposal for new housing in the south of the town.

"They have used an illustrative plan in one of the supporting masterplan documents on the local plan web pages to scare local people into objecting to the housing proposals.

"I'm very sorry that their actions are causing you some concern."

The council responded to the controversial statement – and insists any potential routes highlighted in the consultation 'are very much not set in stone'.

A spokesman added: "Despite the potential implication of this response, which is not endorsed by the council, the council understands that those discussing the local plan on social media and in meetings are doing so with the very best of intentions.

"Having said that there has been inaccurate discussion on social media around the local plan which is unnecessarily worrying people.

"There have also been leaflets produced which contained unhelpful speculation presented as fact.

"The council has made it very clear that the current consultation is a very early stage of a process that may be subject to considerable change and has not been exhaustively tested.

"Transport routes are early drafts and illustrative.

"This is an early stage of a long process designed to anticipate the borough's housing, employment and infrastructure needs for decades to come.

"The results of this consultation will inform the draft local plan which will then undergo more consultation in 2018 before being subjected to a rigorous independent examination during mid-2018.

"Although we encourage all residents to submit their views on the plan we must emphasise that no final decision on any part of the proposals has yet been made."

Fears over the possibility of compulsory purchase orders and demolition of homes have also surfaced on social media.

Latchford resident David Mahon believes 'the impact of turning the embankment into a major road would be devastating to residents and the environment'.

Mr Mahon, of Grammar School Road, added: "Latchford residents have inevitably been alarmed and outraged at the proposal to convert the existing rail embankment into a major road from the motorway to Bridge Foot.

"There would be a considerable loss of trees and natural habitation in an area which is already severely lacking in green space.

"The consequent increase of traffic and pollution would have a major impact on the environment and the health and wellbeing of residents."

For more information about the objection group visit the Objection Group – Warrington Preferred Development Option & TPT Bypass Facebook page.

But the council said the disused railway link in Latchford has the ‘potential’ to be used as part of a major new crossing – although plans are yet to be ‘worked up in detail’.

As part of the local plan consultation, the council has prepared a ‘development concept’ for areas of the town.

A spokesman said: "The development concept identifies potential transport infrastructure to support development and suggests that a number of new routes, including a further crossing of the ship canal, may be required.

"No detailed scheme has been worked up for a crossing at this stage and this crossing could be a road, a public transport route such as a busway, or a combination of the two – further work will be required to determine this.

"The development concept shows the potential of using the disused railway line as this is an existing alignment, making it a possible option for the location of a crossing.

"It also shows an illustrative alignment of a new link route, which would connect the crossing into the proposed ‘garden city suburb’ to the south and towards the town centre to the north.

"This route has been included to give an indication of the areas that the route would need to connect to and has not been worked up in detail.

"The council will be looking at the transport impacts of the preferred development option in much more detail to confirm whether a new ship canal crossing is required."