Anger has been voiced after the draining of a popular lake at the site of a planned wind farm in Northumberland.
Rayburn Lake near Longhorsley is where renewable energy developer RES is seeking to site five 127.5m turbines.
The lake has now been drained, sparking anger from local residents who claim it has been done at the worst time for inhabitant wildlife, including fish and swans.
The landowner has insisted it was forced to drain the lake immediately by the Environment Agency, to allow repairs to its dam, and that there would be little impact on wildlife.
Residents suspected the draining had been linked to the turbine proposal although both the landowner and RES have insisted there is no connection.
The Journal was alerted to the draining by retired Tony Roberts, of Nunnykirk. Mr Roberts, who has objected to the wind farm plan, believes it was carried out in the week leading up to March 27.
He said: “The leading question is why could they not have undertaken the essential repairs in February or indeed September when the wildlife breeding season would have been least affected.
“Draining the lake at this time is both an irresponsible and bordering on criminal act by the landowners, in my opinion, they have shown a total disregard for migrating birds and the breeding season in particular.
“Rayburn Lake has always been an important local wildlife sanctuary.
“Further questions that are obvious are, what has happened to the fish that were present in the lake and did they carry out a survey prior to draining to ensure that there were no crested newts in the lake?”
Last night, Nicholas Craig, on whose family’s land the lake and turbine plans are located, said: “We have had an enforcement order (from the agency) under the Reservoirs Act to repair the dam.
“We have had to lower the water level to do the work.
“As land owners we would the like to improve the lake if anything else but we are constricted by the law.”
Mr Craig insisted some water had been left in the lake for birds, saying a “large number” are still using it.
However, he said the site is “not a huge nesting area.”
The landowner added: “It is absolutely nothing to do with the wind farm, it is completely separate issues.”
A RES spokeswoman added: “It is not at all connected with Rayburn Lake wind farm. Nothing to do with us at all.”
An Environment Agency spokesman could find no details of that body having any contact with the Craigs, but he said work could take place without its consent.