Residents living next to a stretch of the River Tay have launched a petition calling on Perth and Kinross Council to enforce its own planning rules.
The group say they have been let down by the local authority after a 300-metre track was bulldozed across Balhomie Wood, near Cargill, in breach of planning regulations.
The residents say Perth and Kinross Council ruled it was “not in the public interest” to pursue the issue last summer – and they fear subsequent breaches have now taken place.
Spokesman Michael Foreman says he and his neighbours want the local authority to review the previous decision and to make clear that unauthorised development will not be tolerated.
“If action had been taken last year we might not have had this issue now,” he says.
“The council didn’t force anyone to stop then, and that has given this developer the green light to go on.”
Balhomie Wood was wildlife haven
The land was formerly part of the Balhomie estate, which was broken up some years ago.
Mr Foreman lives in Balhomie House and the area in question was sold to a developer, Timothy Coupe, last year.
Mr Foreman says Balhomie Wood had been an important habitat for wildlife, such as deer, foxes and red squirrels, for hundreds of years.
Otters, beavers, ducks, swans and other animals can be found on the nearby riverbank and the river itself is famous for salmon.
Perth and Kinross Council has said it is considering part of the area for a Local Nature Conservation Site.
This would provide protection to the greater butterfly orchids which grow there.
However, since the initial track was cleared with heavy machinery, Mr Foreman says trees have been felled and wildflowers, such as bluebells, have been destroyed.
Balhomie Wood a symptom of wider issue
The petition’s supporting statement says failing to pursue the original breach at Balhomie Wood was “a serious mistake”.
“If the planning department had pursued the case and insisted that the land be restored to its original state, the owner would not have been able to continue his destruction of the site,” it goes on.
“We now have to make a stand to reverse the damage that has been done and allow the land to revert to its original state.”
Another neighbour George Logan says developers need to know they can’t take the law into their own hands.
“This isn’t just an issue for us,” he said.
“The council doesn’t seem to have any control.
“Is this the way planning works now? Can people just get away with whatever they want?
“What we had here was a wildlife haven and to see it trashed before our eyes while the council stands by is a bit much.”
The Courier approached Mr Coupe, but he did not respond to a request for comment.
“A Perth and Kinross Council spokesperson said: “The council notes the petition in question regarding Balhomie Wood.
“We are content that the works to date do not require planning enforcement intervention.
“Any disturbance to wildlife is protected under separate legislation.”