SPECIES found at Askham Bog nature reserve could become extinct if a housing development near the site goes ahead - a leading ecologist has told an inquiry.

Sir John Lawton - president of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - said plans to build more than 500 homes on land near the bog would "increasingly isolate" York's wildlife.

He added that lighting, residents and pets like cats living at the new development would put some creatures off.

Developers Barwood say they will build a 125m-wide 'ecological protection and enhancement zone' between the nature reserve and new housing.

The bog already faces isolation from the golf course that wraps around part of the perimeter, the A64 to the south and the railway line to the east, Sir Lawton told the planning inquiry.

He said: "One of the biggest threats is that a lot of wildlife is reduced to isolated patches.

"The development will massively increase the isolation of the bog.

"I do not know what species will go extinct but many will and that will irreparably damage the site of special scientific interest. It would be horrific to damage Askham Bog in the same way that it would be horrific to damage York Minster."

Sir Lawton - who has written a paper on the importance of keeping nature reserves connected for Government - said bats, water voles, badgers, amphibians, hedgehogs and roe deer are all found at the bog.

But David Manley, speaking on behalf of the developer, said that many species will be able to cross the golf course to reach the bog and that birds and bats could fly over the 3m-high barrier between the reserve and the protection zone.

He said: "Bats are already roosting in the urban area. And there is plenty of street lighting in those areas.

"It is not likely to reduce the population of roe deer.

"There is rough grass around the edge of the golf course and it's got trees."

The inquiry continues until November 29.