AN animal welfare group is calling for a housing developer to be prosecuted over a breach of laws designed to protect badgers and their natural habitats.

Persimmon Homes, which markets itself as the UK's leading house builder, has constructed hundreds of homes in and around Wiltshire.

One of its latest developments in Staverton, near Trowbridge, has come under attack after appearing to endanger badgers by dumping earth on or near a sett.

Eagle-eyed members of Wiltshire Badger Group have called for Persimmon Homes to be prosecuted for the offence saying it is not the first time this has happened.

Malcolm Clark, of the badger protection group, said. "Last week heavy machinery moved in to clear the ground and as a result, a huge pile of soil was deposited at the further side of the site, partially blocking the badger sett.

"This is a flagrant breach of the law by Persimmon Homes.

"A prosecution must be brought against Persimmon. Only then will they learn. Persimmon must realise they cannot continue persecuting protected wildlife."

The law states that a licence must be obtained prior to working within 30 metres of a sett with heavy machinery and that setts must not be disturbed.

Mr Clark added: "Persimmon knows the law very well, but it chooses to ignore it putting profit above wildlife and the environment."

Gary Male, technical director of Persimmon Homes Wessex, said: "The works currently being carried out in Staverton are part of the planning conditions relating to archaeology on the site and are not part of the construction works.

"Unfortunately the spoil heap arising from the works has been mistakenly placed within 30 metres of the badger sett.

"As soon as this was brought to our attention, works were ceased in this area and advice sought from an ecologist.

"An ecologist has visited the site and will be providing recommendations for the safe removal of the spoil from its current location to a location outside of the 30 metre zone.

"Until such time, no works will be carried out in within the 30 metre zone."