The go-ahead has been given to build four apartment blocks in an area of north Belfast designated a nature conservation site.
The Planning Service said they believed the two could co-exist - but residents living in north Belfast are surprised.
The plans are for 28 apartments in four blocks between the Antrim Road and Pineview Park.
The blocks would be in an area of designated conservation importance, partly because of its woodland.
But the planning service said the integrity of that woodland could be preserved whilst accommodating the new apartments which will be four storeys high.
Residents said they were also concerned that preparatory work could destabilise the Antrim Road. The plans still have to be cleared by building control.
The residents are also angry about an email sent to Belfast councillors.
In it, the developers, Glenfinn Properties Ltd, describe the area as "a wasteland" saying it is plagued by anti-social behaviour and the ground is littered with syringes.
Those claims are flatly rejected locally.
The city council has come out against the developers' plans.
Sinn Fein councillor Tierna Cunningham said: "He was coming up to tell us he was doing us a favour as residents in terms of that there was anti-social behaviour and it was like a hot spot of syringes and bottles.
"It isn't that at all," she said.
"Although he was trying to be as helpful as possible to us... we are still not satisfied that the site is going to be safe to build on."
The developers said the project would only involve one third of the nature site.
They claimed their plans would improve the area.