FEARS of 'catastrophic damage' to the Winnington Swing Bridge in its current guise have been voiced by a group calling for a new River Weaver crossing.

The River Weaver Navigation Society (RWNS) has voiced renewed concerns after it was confirmed that roadworks close to the busy bridge are set to last until September.

The work will include 'narrowing and widening' of the road to the Winnington side of the bridge, as well as the installation of a new traffic signal junction for new homes on the Wallerscote Island – some of more than 1,800 planned in the redevelopment of the village.

A public meeting on Thursday, March 14, at Winnington Park Recreational Club discussed the issue as well as the campaign for a new two-way crossing to relieve congestion.

Society president John Tackley said: "As each week goes by the RWNS become more and more concerned over the state of roadworks and traffic close to the single lane Winnington Swing Bridge.

“Today we have learned there will be roadworks now until 2nd September and a new traffic signal junction system installed to cater for new homes on the Wallerscote Island.

“This can only make traffic problems from Barnton to Northwich even more chaotic."

There is genuine concern among the society, and echoed by Barnton Parish Council – which was represented at the meeting – that roadworks could lead to queues on the 110-year-old bridge itself, causing overloading.

“Our society’s real concern is the potential damage to the bridge as these works continue and heavy good vehicles are stationary on the bridge – perhaps two at a time," Mr Tackley said.

“Evidence suggests that this could cause catastrophic damage to the bridge and create an appalling situation for our local roadways and the water traffic on the river Weaver.

“The existing Winnington Swing Bridge is now over 100 years old and was designed for traction engines and horse and carts.

“We are demanding immediate action from our highways authority on what the weight limit of the bridge should be and for the Cheshire and Warrington Transport Board to make this river crossing a priority in their sub-regional strategy.

“We are also calling for those standing for local council elections on May 2 to support this challenging problem in their manifestos.”

There are no immediate plans to add an extra traffic lane to cross the River Weaver, despite numerous campaigns over recent decades.

Barnton Parish Council has led calls in recent years, with Cllrs Sheena Beech and Dilys Hooper attending the meeting to voice concern.

Former county councillor Andrew Needham said: “The focus of the River Weaver Navigation Society should always be the continuing passage of commercial and tourist traffic on the river.

“If the society is to help the local people in their plea for a two-lane bridge it is important that they influence the Cheshire and Warrington Transport Board into prioritising the bridge for action.

“This is not going to be easy when the strategy’s current priorities are Chester Railway Station, Crewe Station as an HS2 Hub, and the Middlewich Eastern Bypass."