‘Outraged’ villagers have lamented the destruction of a field they hoped to see designated as a village green in Billingshurst.
Bellway Homes moved equipment on site last week and flattened a field behind Daux Avenue to carry out a ‘reptile trapping and translocation exercise’. It has planning permission for 46 homes on the land.
Bellway’s application was initially refused by Horsham District Council in March 2012. It was the third time an application had been made on the site but the decision was overturned by the planning inspector in April 2013.
However, an application to designate six fields as a village green, including the one Bellway has started work on, was submitted to West Sussex County Council.
An inquiry was held by an independent inspector earlier this year and he is due to make a decision on the village green bid in the coming months.
Rachel Gee, who lives in Daux Avenue, said: “I think people were outraged. They could not believe Bellway had done that.”
She continued: “It’s a tremendous community resource and having a dog I use it almost daily.”
A spokesperson for Bellway Homes said: “The works which have taken place are connected with the completion of a reptile trapping and translocation exercise.
“Such works can be undertaken in the absence of a planning permission and there is no licensing process relevant to the reptile species concerned, though it should be noted that a planning permission for the site is still live in any event.
“Reptiles have been removed from the site and the destructive element of the process has been undertaken as the final phase of the methodology in line with current guidance and best practice relating to such matters.”
A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council said it was still awaiting the inspector’s report and the Rights of Way Committee was likely to decide whether all or some of the land should be designated as a village green in February 2014.
The council said that since none of the land was formally registered any building works taking place would not be unlawful.