A PLAN to build new luxury homes in the middle of a Dudley beauty spot would cut a much-loved nature reserve in half, residents and dog walkers fear.

An application to build nine spacious four and five bedroom homes with double garages in Saltwells Local Nature Reserve has been submitted to Dudley Council planners but the proposal has sparked outrage from those living nearby and people who enjoy walks in the ancient woodland which is famed for its bluebells.

Bill Weston, who takes his dogs to the reserve daily and who has worked to help make the Netherton beauty spot more accessible for the disabled, said: "The plans that have been submitted would virtually cut this reserve in half."

Residents have already joined forces to start a campaign to oppose the development which would be accessed by a single track drive from Pedmore Road.

A Facebook page has been set up plus an online petition which has already been signed by more than 5,000 people.

Campaigner Lesley Dunn describes the site, on which the historic Saltwells House once stood, as an "absolute gem" and said: "It would be a loss - not just to local people but - to everybody in Dudley and tourists to the area.

"We have protected flora and fauna and wildlife including rare bird species, great crested newts, bats and badgers.

"Light pollution from the site is a worry. The wood would never be dark again which would affect nocturnal animals. We're worried about the trees - some of which are protected.

"I think there'll be tremendous damage to the wood when they put services to the site.

"Parts of the wood are ancient woodland - and so many people use this site for walking and dog walking."

Councillor Chris Barnett, who represents Quarry Bank and Dudley Wood, said he would be taking up the fight on behalf of worried residents and he told the News: "I will be doing everything I can to see this planning application is refused."

Birmingham based KB Extruders is behind the application. The firm has not yet responded to a request for comment.

A design and access statement submitted to the council's website, prepared by Architecture and Interior design on behalf of KB Extruders, describes the application as an "exciting opportunity to acquire and develop a woodland site in the heart of the Black Country within a short drive of Birmingham City Centre".

It goes on: "The proposed arrangement and sizes of the properties has been designed to make good use of the site providing all the required facilities to live comfortable and meet planning/highway policies.

"The external appearance of the houses will be designed to provide a continuous street elevation with grand frontages to represent quality modern homes. The elevations of the dwellings are set at various angles to the street to provide character and individuality to the overall street scene.

"The proposed new build properties will be marketed towards medium to large families or to anyone looking to upgrade from their existing house.

"The design of the proposal will serve to enhance characteristic appearance of the surrounding area as well as being able to cater for the community living within the area.

"The purpose of this development is intended to serve the local community and bring investment and interest in the area by providing housing accommodation.

"The regeneration of the site would be very successful in this vicinity, which will only add as a positive regeneration project to help bring the surrounding area together."

Anyone wishing to submit an official comment on the planning application can do so on the council's planning website www.dudley.gov.uk/resident/planning/planning-services/ and search for planning application P18/1373. The deadline for submissions is November 21.

People wishing to find out more about the campaign to protect the site from development can check out the Facebook page - Save Saltwells Nature Reserve.

To sign the petition go to www.change.org/p/dudley-council-stop-plans-to-build-homes-on-saltwells-nature-reserve.