YORKSHIRE Wildlife Trust has revealed long-term aspirations to buy land north of Askham Bog - as part of its objection to controversial plans to build up to 516 homes nearby.

Barwood Land says that under its plans, the fields to the north of the bog would become an "ecological buffer" between the reserve and the housing development.

But the trust disagrees, saying in its objection letter that the Moor Lane development poses a serious risk to the “irreplaceable” bog.

Nearly 7,000 people have already lodged objections to the planning application, according to the trust, including Historic England, York Outer MP Julian Sturdy and ward councillors.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which runs the reserve, says: “It has been the long-held view of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust that a secure future for Askham Bog requires an expansion of the reserve into the wider catchment.

“Clearly, given current surrounding land-use, this is a very long-term aspiration, but as sites like Askham Bog are increasingly recognised by society as unique and immensely important for health and well-being and the wildlife they contain, we believe that funding will eventually be forthcoming to purchase surrounding land and to re-naturalise that land to create a better functional setting for Askham Bog.

“Planning permission for housing would of course make such aspirations untenable, condemning this unique site to inevitable ecological degradation.”

The trust says the site is “irreplaceable” and probably the most biodiverse in Yorkshire.

A spokesman added that if the organisation could acquire some or all of the fields to the north of the bog, it would be possible to restore the area to how it would have been without agricultural changes.

Julian Sturdy MP, writing in objection to the plans, said: “This application could potentially deprive York of one of its most treasured nature reserves and should be refused on this basis alone as it goes against greenbelt policy.

“I fundamentally believe Woodthorpe should be protected from suburban sprawl onto this greenbelt site.”

Historic England has also lodged an objection.

A spokesman said: “Historic England considers that the development of this site would harm elements which have been identified by your authority as contributing to the special character and setting of the historic city of York.”

And Dringhouses and Woodthorpe councillors Ann Reid, Ashley Mason and Stephen Fenton submitted a formal objection, saying: “We continue to support the very many people who have objected to this unnecessary development, which will have a devastating effect on Askham Bog and a major impact on the lives of the residents in our ward and, above all, is not needed to address the housing shortfall in the city.”

Barwood Land's planning consultants GVA HOW Planning has previously claimed the "sustainable" development would provide "substantial benefits" to York, including up to 516 homes, with 35 per cent "affordable", to help meet the city’s acute housing needs.

It argues it would integrate with Woodthorpe, with new community facilities, sports pitches and play areas, and says environmental assessments have demonstrated it would not impact adversely on the bog but result in a "positive betterment" to it.