Residents of Marden Way, Calne, were surprised to see workmen from the Bowood estate turn up with a digger on Tuesday, to build a path on land outside their homes.

Several came out when the workers arrived at 11am and questioned their right to build the path on land which now belongs to Persimmon.

They asked the diggers to stop while they phoned the council’s planning department, Persimmon and the Bowood estate.

Marden Way, which has a dead end, backs on to fields owned by Bowood. These are secured by a padlocked gate and used to grow rape seed.

Bowood sold the land at Marden Way to Persimmon Homes in 1988.

Alex Nicholls, 39, lives next to the field with wife Becky, and said Bowood should have contacted the residents.

He said: “You don’t just turn up with a digger and expect people to be ok about it.

“We argued for about two hours. I said you can’t just expect me to say, ‘Carry on’.

“I just want some official to come along and say, ‘Yes, they can do that’. They need to talk to the local community, talk to the people it’s going to affect and annoy.”

Bowood estate manager Charles Leather said although Marden Way land was sold, Bowood retained a right of way for all times and all purposes and the path would allow access for agricultural vehicles.

He said: “Due to a change in our farming practices, we now require that access, hence why we are putting in a hard surface between the field and the public highway.

“I notified residents two years ago, when we first put the gateway there, that it was intended to be used as an access. I notified the four properties adjacent to the gateway.

“I spoke to one of the owners and I have agreed in advance of using it for agricultural traffic, we will notify all of the residents along Marden Way.”

Residents are concerned having an access point will make it easier to get permission to build houses there.

Howard Marshall, town councillor for Calne Central, who is concerned about extra traffic in Marden Way, said: “It’s just not suitable.”

Mr Leather said there was no plan to build on the land, but it has been identified by Wiltshire Council as a potential development site.