On the eve of an appeal over the fate of a historic estate, an attempt to plant trees was stopped following complaints.
An appeal hearing starts tomorrow after a High Court judge heard a judicial review and quashed planning permission to develop Cherkley Court near Leatherhead in August.
Mole Valley District Council and the developer are appealing against his decision that blocked plans to turn the former home of press baron Lord Beaverbrook into a luxury hotel and golf course.
It is understood that developer Longshot Cherkley Court started to plant trees, in part to protect residents from errant golf balls, this morning.
But work on the site was stopped following complaints from Kristina Kenworthy, who lives at the estate and belongs to the Cherkley Campaign that brought the judicial review.
Mrs Kenworthy said: "Turning up with the intention of planting 180 leylandii trees along the boundary of our property this morning leaves us feeling in little doubt that the developers are attempting to harass and intimidate us.”
Residents are also concerned about Longshot Cherkley Court consenting to the use of model airplanes, investigating the possibility of eco-friendly paintballing and using bird scarers to control nesting.
A Longshot spokesman said that notice had been given more than two weeks ago about the tree planting and it was part of a body of estate management work taking place.
He said: “No-one is looking to harass anyone. There’s no game. There’s just the planting of trees on an estate that has got many trees.”
In response to the complaints, he said: “Rather than cause any further unhappiness, we stopped it. We are waiting a few days and we will carry on.”
He said bird scarers were being used to prevent springtime nesting and apologised for any inconvenience caused when they malfunctioned and kept going off on Tuesday night.
He said: “If we are to continue with the golf course following the Court of Appeal, we don’t want any birds nesting on the ground.
“If we don’t win the judgement, it’s our responsibility to restore the estate as found. The job of returning the estate is as significant for birds as the job of continuing.”
In August Mr Justice Haddon-Cave quashed planning permission for the development saying the decision to grant it was irrational, legally flawed, contrary to planning policy and based on inadequate reasons.
But the developer and council’s legal teams remain of the view that the decision to grant planning permission was lawful and correct.
Andy Smith, Surrey branch director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “This case is of enormous local and national significance.
“At the heart of the matter is whether the development control committee of a local council can get away with approving an unnecessary and inappropriate development on greenbelt countryside in defiance of the district's local plan and the advice of the council's own planning officers and other experts.
“The judgment of the High Court last year was that the council was wrong to have done so, and that its vote to approve the scheme was perverse and unlawful, and therefore the planning permission should be quashed.
“It is a pity that the council and the developers have between them brought this case to the Court of Appeal after the judgment went so decisively against them last year. It is rather like a corpse rising from the dead!
“Members of the Cherkley Campaign and CPRE Surrey - and, indeed, everyone who values the protection of the greenbelt - will be watching the progress of this case with great interest and concern."
In response, a Longshot spokesman said: “I think it’s a great scheme. It’s a fantastic proposal. These objectors have a legal right to challenge, so do the council and so do Longshot.
“What the courts do best is review arguments and review judgements.”
The Epsom Guardian will be reporting on the appeal hearing tomorrow. Visit this website for updates.