NATURE lovers in Oxford are protesting the second planning application in a year which they say would threaten a city nature reserve.

Residents in Headington say building homes immediately next to the Lye Valley, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), sets a "dangerous precedent" which could see the reserve walled in by increasing development.

More than 100 residents have now lodged objections and comments with Oxford City Council about the latest plans to build four four-bedroom homes on green land in Town Furze road, immediately adjacent to the SSI.

The Friends of Lye Valley group, who help conserve the rare plants in the green haven, has urged the council to refuse, saying the area would be "irrevocably changed".

The Friends lost their last battle against plans to build ten homes next to the reserve in nearby Warren Crescent in March when city councillors allowed them.

Spokeswoman Antonia King said she was "incredulous" that the new application had even been lodged.

She said: "The Lye Valley is one of those very special places in Oxford - a beautiful nature reserve at the bottom of the valley, with golf club to one side of the stream and the green buffer of woodland gardens the other side.

"We should have the opportunity to continue to cultivate this special area, not build on it.

"Accepting this application would set a dangerous precedent, as several other owners would use the opportunity to sell their gardens for building."

The Lye Valley protects an internationally-rare habitat: an alkaline spring fen which has survived in Oxford since the last Ice Age, 8,000 years ago.

It represents 1.5ha of only 19ha of that habitat left in England and supports more than 20 species of plants which are otherwise rare in Oxfordshire, 14 of which are on Natural England's Red List.

The reserve also hosts ten species of rare and 27 species of nationally scarce invertebrates, notably soldier flies and glow worms, as well as reptiles and amphibians.

Mrs King warned: "The council need to decide: what do they want for this area of Oxford?

"If they accept this application, it opens the floodgates – they need to make their minds up what the future here will look like."

Wheatley planning consultants Demarcation Design, which drew up the new application on behalf of the landowner, said it had spent 18 months working with ecologists to ensure the new development would not have any impact on the nature reserve.

Agent Marc Chenery said: "We realised this was going to be a contentious issue, so this application is not something we've just thought up: this project is 18 months of gathering information for a suitable scheme.

"The hydrology for the area will not be changed in any form – it has been proven that this development won't have any effect on the reserve."

Residents can see the full application online at using reference number 16/00968/FUL and submit comments until Thursday, May 26.

The council is aiming to make a final decision on the plans by Thursday, June 16.