Owners of a wood where acres of trees have been ripped up and burnt have launched a fight over a legal notice telling them to restore the land.
An enforcement notice was issued by the South Downs National Park Authority to the owners of Pondtail Wood at Albourne after the destruction was discovered earlier this year.
But now solicitors acting on behalf of the wood owners have lodged an appeal against the enforcement notice which came into effect last week.
The notice stipulates that the site owners must remove all deposited soils, waste and drainage channels by August 23 in order to expose the ancient woodland soils which can then support the return of native species.
Conservationists, councillors and local residents were left shocked and upset when they discovered acres of trees had been felled and burnt and a large amount of rubble and hardcore brought onto the site.
The South Downs National Park Authority are now awaiting formal notice from the Planning Inspectorate with full details of the appeal.
Said a spokesperson: “As with any planning application an appeal would suspend the ‘effective’ or start date of an Enforcement Notice until the appeal is decided or withdrawn.”
Tim Slaney, director of planning for the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “Wherever possible we try to work with site owners to fix breaches in planning and took careful legal advice before issuing the Enforcement Notice. We have a strong record in defending significant planning decisions at appeal and are determined to see Pondtail Wood restored.
“We appreciate that the local community are as frustrated as we are with the damage to the site and delays to its restoration.
“In the meantime our Stop Notice remains in force, we are visiting the site regularly and can confirm that no additional work has taken place.”