Controversy has been reignited over plans for a new walking and cycling scheme which would cut through a nature reserve.

The proposal would see paved routes criss-crossing Heaton Mersey Common and also includes new lighting and seating.

Part of the Heatons cycle link between Fallowfield Loop and the Transpennine Trail, it has split opinion in the area.

While opponents believe it will destroy the peaceful feel of the common, others welcome the boost to ‘active travel’ infrastructure.

The wider scheme was approved last year and work has been completed or is underway at a number of locations.

However, town hall bosses felt that the Heaton Mersey section could be further improved, including 'an additional, east-west route’ across the common.

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The results of a further consultation launched in March this year show that roughly 60pc of the 1,000 respondents were against the scheme.

But campaigners have been left furious by a town hall recommendation to continue with the proposal - albeit with some 'mitigation measures'.

Jo Ward chair of Heaton Mersey Village Conservation Group said it was ‘shocking’ that the council was ‘basically ignoring residents locally’.

“It’s just outrageous,” she said.

What’s the point of having elected members that have done a listening exercise and don’t tune in because it doesn’t fit in with what they want to do.”

The Heatons Cycle Route is part of Chris Boardman’s The Bee Network and paid for through the £160m Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund.

Walkers enjoying a stroll at Heaton Mersey Common, Stockport.

Jo believes the council has been more focused on securing the funding, than developing an appropriate scheme.

“It’s quite disturbing, it feels like they are being really lazy and just want to spend the money,” she said.

“We have had quite a lot of responses from women with children who are really concerned about the future.

“We are running out of time. It’s not going to do anything to increase cycling - we need to make the roads safer.”

A report set to go before Heatons area committee next week asks local councillors to recommend the scheme be approved by the cabinet member.

While a range of concerns - including loss of trees, impact on wildlife, pedestrian safety and anti-social behaviour - were raised in the consultation, the report claims most can be overcome by amendments or mitigation measures.

These include switching lighting off between 10pm and 5am, signage to warn cyclists to give priority to pedestrians and planting schemes to mitigate loss of trees.

Heaton Mersey Common, Stockport.

However Jo disputes this, claiming the path widening will result in the loss of more trees than the council admits to and that bats and badgers will be adversely affected by the LED lighting.

“They have done such a a poor ecological report it just feels like lip service,” she added.

Jo also says that the shared cycle and walking paths are a ‘recipe for disaster’.

“People wandering around are not expecting to be competing with people on bikes,” she added.

“Research tells us it puts both groups off because people don’t want to come into conflict with each other.”

Opponents of the scheme also believe the lighting till 10pm will make anti-social behaviour more likely, and improved access could mean motorcyclists using the common.

Not everyone is against the scheme, however - as evidenced by the 40pc of respondents who backed the proposals.

Community campaign group Walk Ride Greater Manchester is also supporting the plan and believes it will have a positive impact.

A spokesperson said: “Heaton Mersey Common is a place where people already walk and cycle.

“The existing paths are in various states of disrepair, so let’s get them improved so that more people can use the common, whether they’re going to school or the local shops, walking the dog or just enjoying the green space.

“If we look elsewhere within Greater Manchester, schemes are being built that are sympathetic to their environment while ensuring that people feel safe after dark."

They added: “If the council is to meet its climate change ambitions, we need a big shift in how we travel. And making it easier to travel on foot or by bike across the common is a small but important step in achieving this. Let’s work with the council to ensure this scheme is the best it can be.”

Councillor David Meller, cabinet member for economy and regeneration at Stockport council, has responded to concerns over the recommendation for him to approve the scheme.

He said: “The report describing the outcome of the consultation is being considered at area committee next week and any complaints about the report or process will be considered in line with the council complaints process.”