RESIDENTS protested against plans to build five blocks of flats on a nature reserve yesterday.

Wildlife lovers and people living in Whitehawk are fighting proposals to build more than 200 homes near Brighton Racecourse.

Hyde Housing Group and Brighton and Hove City Council plan to build 217 “affordable” homes to the north-east of Whitehawk.

They held consultation sessions this week for residents at The Valley Social centre.

Shelley Elliott-Gates, 38, from Whitehawk Way, said yesterday: “It’s absolutely shocking they are deciding to build on a nature reserve when we’re facing serious environmental issues.

“I am all for affordable housing, but there are many places in the city where the council can build houses, such as the wasteland down by the Brighton Marina, or doing-up abandoned properties in the city.”

Richard Bickers, a freelance ecologist who lives near Sutherland Road, Brighton, said: “It is total madness. This will completely disrupt the wildlife, which should be protected. Once they start building, what’s to stop them building more.”

Eileen McNamara, from Whitehawk, said nearby residents were given short notice about the planning consultation, making it hard for many to come to the social centre and voice their opinions.

She said the proposed 110 parking spaces for the 217 flats was “ridiculous” and “not good enough”.

“There is limited space in Whitehawk for parking, and this new housing project is just going to drive so much more traffic into an area of the city that is already overcrowded.

“Don’t even get me started on the negative impact it’s going to have on our beautiful wildlife spot that we all treasure so much.”

Author and environmental campaigner Dave Bangs said: “They are just going to smash up the nature reserve. The area they want to build on is the single most important landscape feature in the city. We simply can’t let them do it.”

The council is confident it can develop the site without “significant adverse impacts” on the nature reserve.

Anne Meadows, chairwoman of the city council’s housing committee, said: “With the supply of housing not keeping pace with demand in the city, building new low cost homes for local people is a key priority for us. There are around 15,000 households on the joint housing register and 1,700 households in temporary accommodation and rising homelessness.”