THE green guardians of an Oxford nature reserve have vowed to keep fighting for its protection in 2018.

The Friends of Lye Valley stand firm after defeating the latest planning application to threaten the site in December.

The applicant, a Mr Wells, had applied to build four houses on Town Furze next to the reserve and the Friends said it would harm wildlife.

To their delight, Oxford City Council sided with them and, just before Christmas, issued a withering response to Mr Wells.

In a 600-word explanation head of planning, Patsy Dell, said the proposal went against the Oxford Core Strategy, was not needed and would have a significant impact on the Lye Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest.

She also said the houses ‘would result in an unacceptable adverse impact on the character and appearance of the area and surrounding landscape’.

Friends chairman Judy Webb said: “We are extremely relieved.

“It would have been, without a doubt, damaging for the portion of the fen that is down-slope, even with all the mitigation proposed.”

That bid was just the latest in a string of applications Dr Webb and the Friends have had to fight off: it was the second for houses on that site alone.

The group is now putting a lot of hope in the city council’s local plan.

Although still in an early draft stage and not likely to be adopted until next year, the plan designates the whole nature reserve as Green Infrastructure.

Though not a legal term, just being in the plan will give extra protection.

The Friends even hope the designation might cover the neighbouring gardens which run down into the reserve – currently planning application hot spots.

Dr Webb said: “That designation will be hugely helpful because at the moment we are constantly fighting applications.”

But the Friends also have much bigger plans.

At the moment, the reserve, hidden behind The Slade in Headington, includes two small patches of rare SSSI fenland separated by several hundreds metres of unprotected natural habitat: shady woodland which is not home to any special species.

But slowly and surely the Friends are attempting to cut down the trees, let in the light and one day create a ‘leaky dam’ on the brook which runs through it to create hundreds more acres of the precious fenland, linking the SSSIs.

If it is successful and the rare marsh helleborine orchids start to spread to the land in between then that, too, could one day garner SSSI status.

The way they hope to achieve that is by doing the same thing they have been doing for years: meeting up at the reserve every Wednesday morning and working.

And with that gung-ho attitude, Dr Webb says: “We’re ready for the next onslaught.”