Allotment holders across Oxford defiantly said they would dig for victory in a battle to save their plots from the threat of new houses.

Planners have identified three allotment sites on which almost 400 homes could be built in a confidential list of potential sites if demand for housing continued to soar.

Land at Priory Road in Minchery Farm, near Greater Leys, Upper Wolvercote and Court Place Farm in Old Marston has been singled out by Oxford City Council planners.

If chosen, the city council-owned sites could be used for housing after 2016, but allotment holders have already issued a 'hands off our land' cry.

Old Marston's 15-acre Court Place Farm Allotments site has been singled out for 300 homes. Ken Sheehan, 71, an allotment holder in Old Marston since 1968, said: "I am of the age group where everyone had to dig for victory.

"It's in our blood. In this day and age nothing is forever, but we will battle for our allotments because nobody wants to lose them."

Mark Lynas, secretary of the Upper Wolvercote Allotment Association, said: "At a time when growing your own food is seen as increasingly important for people's health and the environment we need to be opening more land for allotments, not slapping housing on the ones that already exist.

"These new housing plans spell disaster for what little green space is still left in Oxford.

"We will fight tooth and nail to stop our allotments in Wolvercote being concreted over, but we will also work with other communities to make sure no-one else has to lose out as a result."

Some 7.7 acres of land at Ulfgar Road, Wolvercote, has been earmarked for 40 homes, while a disused 8 acre plot in Minchery Farm would have room for 35 homes.

City council planning chief Michael Crofton-Briggs said: "If we are to propose these sites for development, we would ask the public to comment.

"We would come back to the public and say 'we now think they should be allocated - what do you think?' We need to understand from the public where they think the balance lies between the need for housing, as against protecting our important green spaces."

In 2000 the city council, which rents allotments directly to associations, agreed a standard lease agreement until 2021- effectively meaning allotments are free from development for another 14 years.

Tim Cann, 48, secretary of Court Place Farm Allotments and the Southern regional representative for the National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners, said: "We will not go down without a fight."

Most of the 36 city council-owned plots are bound by long-term leases, meaning they are free from development until at least 2020.