HOUSING proposals for York could be disastrous for wildlife and destroy the "York Minster" of nature preservation, conservationists have warned.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has spoken out against two sites being considered by the city council, and issued a plea for residents to help fight the plans.

A major housing scheme at Moor Lane, Woodthorpe is close to Askham Bog nature reserve, while the Whinthorpe development is neighbour to Heslington Tilmire. Both potential developments feature in the council's recently launched "Further Sites" consultation document, as part of its Local Plan.

The Trust's chief executive Dr Rob Stoneman said Askham Bog was saved from development in 1946 by Francis Terry and Arnold Rowntree and given to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to be looked after in perpetuity.

He added: "Whilst we understand the issues surrounding available housing this should not come at the expense of a city treasure like Askham Bog, akin to York Minster in the opinion of any naturalist."

The reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the Trust has warned that development nearby could irreversibly damage the water table and risk everything the reserve protects.

It is home to many rare species, including orchids, dragonflies, voles and deer.

The Local Plan also proposes more than 5000 homes on the Whinthorpe site close to Helsington Tilmire - a lowland meadow which is home to lapwings and skylark as well as wild flowers.

Dr Stoneman added: “Ground-nesting birds will simply not survive if thousands of people plus their cats and dogs move in next door. This beautiful site could be destroyed.”

Now the Trust is encouraging residents to help protect the two sites by writing to the council objecting to the plans.

The Trust said Askham Bog had developed over thousands of years but could be lost in an instant.

Mike Slater, the council's assistant director of City and Environmental Services, said the city faces big challenges providing enough affordable housing for its residents, but encouraged people to contribute to this consultation, as well as a further city-wide consultation later in the year.

He added: “All views and feedback will be considered as the Local Plan progresses. Although it’s important to note at this stage the sites submitted by landowners or indicated for use by landowners are proposals."

"The magnitude of the last consultation is still felt by everyone and echoed by over 14,000 representations made by developers, land owners, residents and businesses - which is the largest amount of responses we've ever received during a consultation."