Wildlife habitats are being destroyed by clearance work on a plot of land on the outskirts of St Ives, angry neighbours have said.

Neighbours of the site fear its clearance will have an impact on wildlife in the area. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDNeighbours of the site fear its clearance will have an impact on wildlife in the area. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

People living near the four-acre plot, behind Limes Court, believe that work is part of a new bid to develop the land for housing, which has been turned down in the past.

But landowner Martin Braybrook said that although he did want to get planning permission to develop the land, the work was part of routine maintenance on the site and that there had been no intention of putting wildlife at risk.

One neighbour said machinery had been used over several days to clear trees, hedges and scrub from the land, between London Road, Limes Court and the Brambles, destroying wildlife habitats.

"I could just about accept this if planning permission had been granted for the development of this scrub land but I find the wasteful destruction totally upsetting and unnecessary, given that no such permission has been granted," she said.

"It is actually even worse that planning permission has not yet been sought and even if it is, who knows whether it would be granted.

"Therefore, this extensive destruction of these wildlife habitats may never be necessary."

Another neighbour described the work as the "needless destruction" of a four-acre site in which mature and younger trees were pulled out of the ground and chipped, clearing a natural habitat.

"A diverse array of animals, including birds, bats, deer, hedgehogs, badgers and foxes will almost certainly perish this winter as a result and some species may be lost to the area completely," he said.

He said previous attempts to develop the land had been unsuccessful and it was not included in the new Huntingdonshire local plan.

Mr Braybrook, from Cromer, said he had inherited the land from a relative about 10 years ago and, although he did want to develop the site, the current work was to catch up with routine maintenance of the land and was not part of a backdoor attempt to get planning permission.

"I used to have a contractor who looked after it for me but he died about three years ago and it hasn't been touched since," he said. "A number of self-set trees have come down."

Mr Braybrook said the land had become overgrown with scrub which needed clearing out and organisation of the work had been left in the hands of an agent.

He said a relative originally owned a house there and the land was used as a low-level smallholding, but the house was sold leaving the land with little use as it stood. It also cost money to maintain.