ASSURANCES made by leading councillors there are no plans to build thousands of homes south of the A133 near Wivenhoe have been branded a “smokescreen” by campaigners.

Last week Paul Smith and Tim Young, leader and deputy leader of Colchester Council, issued a statement denying any suggestion the authority is trying to mislead residents.

Colchester, Braintree and Tendring Councils are involved in the North Essex Garden Communities project, which could deliver up to 43,000 homes across three sites over the next 30 years.

The site earmarked for up to 9,000 homes on the Colchester/Tendring border has led to a backlash from campaigners in Wivenhoe, who fear residential development south of the A133.

Campaign group Hands off Wivenhoe is fighting to keep the town from becoming another suburb of Colchester.

Mr Smith and Mr Young rubbished any suggestion homes were planned to the south of the A133 and labelled the fears “scaremongering.” The pair added the only proposed development in that area is on the Essex University campus and a new park and ride.

A spokesman for Hands off Wivenhoe said: “We are amazed and disappointed the council is making these outrageous and totally misleading claims to their true plans for the development of our area.

“We are confident this is an initial smokescreen is designed to try and appease fears for the total destruction of our community.

“It is absolutely vital people living in Wivenhoe appreciate the real dangers facing their community from this proposed plan.

“The very fact the council is trying to allay the very real problems the project will cause residents underlines the fact they are well aware of and worried about Hands of Wivenhoe’s campaign to ensure there is no development to the south of the A133.”

The campaign group and Wivenhoe Town Council highlighted a section of the latest consultation document put out by Colchester Council, which says the upper target of 9,000 homes “would require residential development south of the A133.”

A spokesman said: “It is the view of Wivenhoe Town Council that the consultation document definitely is proposing this potential.

“From previous conversations and press statements, we have concluded Mr Smith and Mr Young were both of the opinion that any development south of the A133 was not acceptable.

“University expansion and a park and ride is development and is not acceptable to us.”

Mr Smith reiterated he is “totally opposed” to any residential development south of the A133.

He said: “We had a consultation meeting about it and that is why we have consultation meetings, to understand the local objection.

“Building a community with a great big road through it is not what we are looking to do.

“All I can do is insist that myself and Tim Young simply to not want any residential development south of the road.”