It was saved from bulldozers by residents arguing it should be an open space for residents to enjoy.

But now people living near the Trap Grounds in North Oxford are fighting a move to make it more accessible to the public.

The battle to get the area designated as a town green – and save it from housing development – went all the way to the House of Lords six years ago.

But a new plan to make it easier for people to get into the six-acre site has caused uproar.

The plan to attract more people to the Trap Grounds by opening a new entrance from the south is being put forward by members of the St Margaret’s Area Society, who believe not enough people make use of the reserve.

An entrance in Navigation Way would allow school children and families to enjoy the iconic town green, said the group’s chairman Tim King.

But the Friends of the Trap Grounds say wildlife, including legally protected species, would be put at risk with the town green reduced to being “a shortcut”.

Allowing the site to become a thoroughfare could also attract flytipping, drug dealers and rough sleepers, say the Friends.

The two sides clashed at the annual meeting of the St Margaret’s Residents’ group.

Catherine Robinson, of the Friends, said Dr King acted “undemocratically and unconstitutionally”, by refusing any debate or vote on the issue.

The meeting ended with the Friends of the Trap Grounds and others pushing through a vote of no confidence in the chairman.

Aristotle Lane Residents’ Association is also opposing the new access gate, amid fears about crime.

Susanna Pressel, city councillor for Jericho and Osney, said Friday’s no confidence vote had no validity, with the meeting being taken over by people from outside the area.

She added: “If you picture a town green you think of a large open space, with access on all sides, with a lot of people enjoying it.

“That is what we want to see.

“It is the council’s intention that green spaces have easy access. It is good for children to learn more about nature.”

Dr King said: “The Trap Grounds is a resource for the local human community. A few more visitors would deter wrongdoers while hardly disturbing wild species.

“It is paradoxical that this iconic Town Green has worse access than to any of the other open spaces administered by Oxford City parks department.”

To reach the southern side of the site presently involved a long a tortuous route via the canal towpath, he said.

The Trap Grounds lies between the railway line and the Oxford Canal.

Ms Robinson said: “The Trap Grounds is a small and vulnerable site, of which about half is reed bed and wetland. Visitor numbers have increased with our group clearing paths and commissioned the installation of a boardwalk.”

But she said ecologists believed that the site had reached the limit of what it could sustain without permanently damaging wildlife, including rare species such as water voles, glow worms and common lizards.

She said: “It was granted its town green status on the basis of its recreational use for the enjoyment of wildlife – not for use as a thoroughfare. There is a perfectly good access along Frog Lane.”