Campaigners fighting to protect land known as Codnor Common from development were dismayed to see diggers move onto the site on Monday.
So far 266 people have filled out application forms to have the fields between Codnor and Waingroves registered as a Village Green - and afforded protective status against building works.
Belper-based Peveril Homes already has permission to build 98 houses there this week began to fence off a footpath from the main proposed building site.
But campaigners, including Becky Deans of Holborn View, Codnor, say the company has jumped the gun - as their village green application is not due to be decided by Derbyshire County Council until at least March.
Becky, 36, said: “We are just really disappointed that they have started before the application has been decided.” The Codnor Common land is often used by dog walkers and Becky said and a fence would prohibit them from walking across the fields there. If the Village Green application is successful, Peveril Homes would have to restore areas it has carried out work on. But a county council spokesperson said the authority has “no powers to restrict the landowner’s use of the land while the application is considered.” .
A Peveril Homes spokesperson said: “Peveril Homes is working closely with the Waingroves Community Association to maximise the community benefit from our site at Codnor/Waingroves. Significant progress is being made and a planning application for a new community centre building is anticipated in the near future.
“The application for the village green is currently going through the statutory process and has unfortunately delayed delivery of the housing and community benefits.
“Following advice and with great reluctance Peveril Homes have commenced erecting fencing on the site to mark out where the members of the public are entitled to go either by right or with our express permission which may be withdrawn at any time. Peveril Homes can assure the community that all public footpaths will be unaffected by the fencing.”