Plans for three new homes near a “special” open space in Naphill have been criticised after they were given the go-ahead by the council.

The Open Spaces Society fears the development of three new houses in place of one at Heatherlands on Downley Road – which includes a track across Naphill Common – will “desecrate” the popular green space, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The Society objected to the application because of the proposed new access track at the rear, across the common – and Wycombe District Council made it clear to the applicant that such a track requires the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as well as planning permission.

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said: “Naphill Common is very special. Too often we see consent being given for works on common land once planning permission is granted.

“A new track would degrade this lovely common which is rich in wildlife and a place for public enjoyment.

“The public has the right to walk over every part of the common and it is enjoyed by local people and visitors. It is also designated for its nature conservation value.

“We deeply deplore this decision and will object to an application for works on common land.”

The plans were also objected to by the Friends of Naphill Common, who feared allowing the track to be extended would “inevitably set a precedent” – adding: “We could end up with a paved road running across most of the northern boundary of the common, significantly harming its rural character.”

Developers say the new access will be created to the north-western corner of the site, linking to an existing driveway at the end of Chapel Lane – and will result in the loss of an area of grassland measuring approximately 12m by 3m. They added that the loss of a small area is “not considered to result in a significant ecological impact”.

Their report said: “The amenity grassland is species-poor and is typical of managed lawns. The habitats are known to be of value to smooth newts, epiphytic lichens and rare plants, such as the coralroot. The habitats within the area of the proposed driveway are not suitable for these species, and no rare plants are present within the area affected by the proposals.

“The proposals will include the retention of the existing young rowan tree and holly bush, and so there are no foreseeable impacts as a result of the loss of trees or shrubs.”

Natural England did not object to the plans as long as permeable surfacing is used for the new track so it does not destroy the area.