Animal lovers have been left outraged after "prison-like" doors were placed over the entrance of badgers' homes, as part of "cruel" plans to relocate the creatures.
Wire and one-way doors now cover the badger sett at Princes Parade in Hythe, where work has now started to build a 150-home housing development overlooking the sea.
The new one-way doors along the canal
Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) is behind the divisive scheme, which will also include a leisure centre with a swimming pool, shops and a hotel.
Earlier this year, the authority gave itself planning permission to form a new artificial badger sett to the west of the site, as the existing one needed to be removed to make way for the scheme.
Permission was granted despite more than 100 objections being submitted to the council, with one protester calling the proposal ‘wrong’, adding that land at the new location is contaminated and closer to the road, which will lead to badger deaths.
A report on the scheme from FHDC said: "The process of moving the badgers from the existing sett to any replacement would be via exclusion from the existing, and encouraging them, through various means, to settle in the replacement."
Only once the existing sett is vacant, would it be destroyed, it said.
But those against the relocation – and indeed the whole Princes Parade scheme – are now accusing the council and its actions of being "cruel and heartless in the extreme".
It comes as a public inquiry has been held over the last few weeks into stopping up of Princes Parade road and moving it closer to the Royal Military Canal.
The road being moved is part of the council's plan to develop the seafront. And while planning permission for the homes and leisure centre has been granted, the authority is yet to be granted planning permission from the Department for Transport to move the road.
As such, campaigners from action groups Wild About Princes Parade and Save Princes Parade have called clearance work at the site 'premature'. They also object to the badgers being relocated.
Chris Farrell said: "Photos show the steps taken by FHDC to evict the badgers from their sett along the canal at Princes Parade.
"The sett is on the route of the council's planned new road which is subject to the outcome of a Public Inquiry. The result of the inquiry will not be known for some time.
"The council are behaving as if the outcome of the inquiry is a foregone conclusion. Their actions are cruel and heartless in the extreme.
"The footage shows heavy duty mesh over the site of the sett and one-way gates over the entrances.
"These allow the badgers to leave but they are unable to re-enter."
Another campaigner Mark Brophy said: "The badgers have been excluded from their natural setts, and obviously the artificial one is there, but they cannot return to the homes they know.
"We fear it means the badgers will either starve, roam onto the busy road or end up under a digger."
After pictures were shared on social media of the 'prison-like' doors, residents of Hythe shared their outrage.
One person posted: "Words can't describe how horrified I am by this."
Another said: "Not very 'slow and sensitive' is it."
A third said: "Cruelty beyond belief."
FHDC says it is following methodology approved by Natural England and that the badgers are already showing interest in the new artificial sett.
The authority added that one of the one-way doors had been tampered with.
A spokesman said: "The methodology for humanely and sensitively relocating badgers to the replacement artificial sett at the Princes Parade development site is being followed by experienced ecologists as per the licence granted by Natural England.
"Immediately after the gates and mesh are installed, the gates are left open for a night or two to allow badgers to get used to going through the gated entrances.
'While we are aware that some people don’t believe the Princes Parade development should go ahead, we want to ensure the badger relocation happens safely.'
"They are then closed for the rest of the programme to allow badgers to exit but prevent re-entry – at no stage are they trapped. It’s a common process for projects such as this.
"We are concerned that a one-way badger gate has been tampered with by a member of the public. Anyone interfering with a badger sett without a licence risks committing a criminal offence and may inadvertently cause significant harm to the badgers.
"While we are aware that some people don’t believe the Princes Parade development should go ahead, we want to ensure the badger relocation happens safely.
"Arrangements are in place to ensure this happens – with the welfare of badgers foremost in our minds."
Earlier this month, new photos revealed the progress of clearance works at Princes Parade, where vegetation has already been removed from the beauty spot.
It is not known when the results of the public inquiry will be released.