A SECRET garden hidden just yards from High Wycombe's town centre has been earmarked for homes, despite angry protests from neighbours who say the land is a haven for wildlife.

The 0.48 hectares of land, off Priory Avenue, was once home to Joan Perkins before her death ten years ago. The 87-year-old owned a number of businesses in the area including the old petrol station at Temple End and a furniture factory by her home.

But plans by developers Henry Homes have now been revealed. They involve building eight three-bedroom houses, five two-bedroom apartments and 23 parking spaces. There is also a land swap' agreement with nearby Hamilton School by taking a piece of their playground to build a road. In return the school gets an area of land from the site and money for new projects.

The bungalow at Fairacre has been left derelict, and residents say the house should be pulled down and the land turned into a nature reserve as it is home to badgers and a number of plant species.

Lorna Cassidy, 72, an artist who lives in nearby Hampden Road and makes etchings of the site, called it a secret garden which she remembers as being spectacular in its former glory.

However she said there were not many places left like it in Wycombe and called for the council to protect it from development.

The grandmother, and mum of three, said: "The garden is so magnificent now."

Another neighbour, who didn't want to be named, added: "There are about five or six badger setts. There are so many animals living there at the moment. There is a World War Two air raid shelter there. It's a piece of history.

"Next month it is the tenth anniversary of her death. She would be turning in her grave."

He added: "It used to be a real middle class leafy avenue but it has been eroded by flat developments."

Wycombe District Council received the application and it is currently under consultation.

Phil Perkins, Joan's son, did not want to comment on the application.

Stephen Britnell, managing director at Henry Homes, said: "The proposals put forward by Henry Homes for the Fairacre site seek to respond to local housing needs in the area and the scheme's design has been produced to respect and respond to the surrounding area.

"Henry Homes has approached the proposed redevelopment of this site with sensitivity and recognises its constraints and opportunities.

"In respect of ecological matters relating to the site, an independent and specialist consultant has been appointed and Henry Homes recognises the need to manage such issues appropriately and with due care and consideration. In light of such matters, appropriate mitigation measures will be produced and discussed with council officers.

"We will continue to work with council officers in respect of the scheme and look forward to holding further discussions."