Published: 15:21, 03 November 2021
| Updated: 18:40, 03 November 2021
New photos reveal the progress of the work along Princes Parade in Hythe to make way for a controversial new housing development.
But those against the scheme say they been left 'devastated' over the clearance work, which has seen large areas of grass and vegetation removed.
Drone photos show how a carpet of brown has now replaced the former green land, which is being made ready for construction to start.
The proposed project is being led by Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC), which plans to build 150 homes, a leisure centre, shops and green spaces along the coastal road.
As part of the scheme, Princes Parade road will be stopped up and moved closer to the Royal Military Canal.
Planning permission for this part of the development has been submitted by FHDC to the Department for Transport. An ongoing public inquiry is also looking into this phase.
Campaign groups Save Princes Parade and Wild About Princes Parade (WAPP) have long protested the scheme, but members describe the latest clearance work as premature, as the public inquiry is yet to conclude.
A member of WAPP said: "The devastation of our unique strip of countryside meets coast has begun.
"And yet the public inquiry into the stopping up of the road is continuing.
"Certain irony when the Kent coast has just been recognised for its beauty."
Nicki Stuart, from Hythe, added: "As a local resident I am completely devastated that FHDC are continuing with the clearance of wildlife along Princes Parade and stripping back the vegetation.
"Although they have granted themselves planning permission, being both planning authority and developer, they have ignored local opinion throughout and shown complete disregard for the wide diversity of reptiles, mammals, birds and insects that inhabit this unique strip of land.
"FHDC were asked by Cllr Lesley Whybrow to postpone this work until the outcome of the public inquiry into the stopping up of this road is known. As you can see, they have ignored that request and continue to spend our taxpayers' money on this unwanted development that will spoil our coast forever."
Chris Farrell added: "I'm sure FHDC would not allow building work on any other project to proceed until the result of the Public Inquiry is known.
"None of the councillors who voted for this development represent the people of Hythe or even live in the town."
FHDC says it has worked to "safely and sensitively" relocate slow worms, common lizards and grass snakes from the former municipal waste tip to suitable habitat within the canal's corridor.
The removal of the vegetation is to ensure all reptiles have been found and that those already relocated do not return, the authority says.
Diggers continue with clearance work at Princes Parade
A council spokesman said: "While we are confident the vast majority of reptiles have been found, it is common for clearance work of this nature to take place to ensure that is the case.
"It will, once again, be overseen by experienced ecologists. The cutting back - depending on the weather conditions - could generate some noise and dust in the local area but we will minimise any impact wherever possible.
"Our timetable was specifically designed with the aim of ensuring any visual impact was delayed until after the summer months."
Fencing has also been erected at the site, and work to relocate badgers to a new artificial sett is also ongoing.
The public inquiry continues today at FHDC's offices in Castle Hill Avenue, Folkestone.