Rambling fields that currently provide a natural view for numerous residents in West Windsor could soon disappear under massive housing developments.

The threat follows a shock about turn by the Royal Borough, which only two years ago officially declared the open areas unsuitable for development.

At last Thursday's meeting of the authority's planning and housing scrutiny panel, members agreed to earmark large areas of open fields lying between Wyevale and Squires Garden Centres off Maidenhead Road to accommodate as many as 650 houses.

The land is green belt but now regarded as 'edge of development' - making it vulnerable.

Shocked residents who thought they had won the fight to safeguard their surrounding open space are beside themselves.

Pat Morrish, who lives in Oakley Green Road, said: "I think it will completely damage the look of the area. All these green fields to the east of Windsor will be completely covered in housing estates.

"There are red kites, woodpeckers, all sorts of birds there.

"I'm devastated, disillusioned and have lost all trust and all faith."

Dave Cox, who lives in Ruddlesway and his wife Gail said the first they knew of the plan was when flyers were put through their door just before the meeting. They both fell in love with the views from their home.

Mrs Cox said: "We bought our house on the understanding that the land was designed green belt and as such was safe from development."

Also shocked by the reemergence of the plan at last week's meeting was Cllr Nicola Pryer, whose Clewer North ward is affected and who along with her fellow ward councillors Hashim Bhatti and John Collins had not been informed.

She said: "We were upset. I think more effort could have been made to make us aware of the extra units."

But she said she now knew the council had faced a difficult situation when a Government inspector paid a tough visit at the start of the month. He warned officers that if the authority did not meet its demands by building 712 homes a year over the next 20 years it would lose control over its own local plan.

She said: "I am told officers worked frantically over the weekend to find ways of proving the extra 4% of houses to meet the Government demand. The situation has changed.

"If the Government imposed a plan on us we would have no say over the future of our Green Belt. We are between a rock and a hard place.

Nothing is set in stone though. A new round of consultation is now starting and representations from the public will be accepted from next Friday, December 2 until Friday, January 13.

The three councillors are planning to hold a public meeting at which people will be able to voice their concerns.