AMBLECOTE residents fear an untouched piece of land which acts as an oasis for wildlife behind Corbett Outpatients Centre may be under threat from development.

The site, off Vicarage Road, is included in the Black Country Core Strategy's call for sites document which aims to identify future building land and residents have reported seeing surveyors on-site in recent weeks.

The strategy document suggests the five-hectare site, which is currently used for grazing, could accommodate up to 130 new homes and bosses at the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust, which owns the site, have admitted the Trust is currently exploring options for the land.

Diane Wake, chief executive at the Dudley Group, told the News, said: "In light of financial challenges that face the NHS and the Trust, we have a duty to make the best use of our resources.

"We are reviewing all of our non-operational assets to see what opportunities may exist for the Trust.

"We have a parcel of land at the rear of the Corbett Outpatients Centre that is owned by the Trust.

"The Trust is carrying out exploratory investigations to understand the current state of the land so that options can be explored.

"When we make a decision about the land then we will of course consult with our neighbours."

Resident Nile Rickard said: "It's very unnerving."

He believes the land should be given over as a nature reserve and he added: "I have observed a lot of wildlife including families of foxes and a wide range of birds. I'm always seeing herons down there, it wouldn't surprise me if there could be a heronry down there."

Amblecote councillor Paul Bradley said: "There is no application as yet but it's only a matter of time before the Trust put it on the open market.

"It's a lovely green oasis that's full of wildlife and I would fight tooth and nail to keep it that way. We should not be building on our precious green spaces.

"I believe we used to have the Amblecote carnivals on this land."

The land was part of The Hill estate which was bought by 'salt king' John Corbett for a hospital in 1892 - and in 1948 it, along with all hospital land, was acquired by the newly-formed NHS.

A previous campaign for housing in 1992 was rejected and worried residents hope any fresh bid to develop it would again be kicked into the long grass.

Historian Helen Cook, a member of Amblecote History Society, said: "This is a green field site with an important wildlife habitat and it is just about the last piece of original Amblecote left. It's a hidden gem."

She said the site is a home and travel corridor for all manner of creatures including birds, owls, bats, amphibians, small mammals, foxes and badgers as well as insects and she added: "The whole of the meadow is food source to sustain wildlife, whether it is living on the site or passing through, especially in an environment where we are drastically losing these habitats which are so important."

Amblecote councillor Julie Baines said she would oppose any development on the site and added: "It was John Corbett's intention that the meadow should be used to benefit the health of the community. That purpose is as relevant today as it was when the land was put into trust in1892."