Council officials have halted work on a site in Aberdeenshire amid concern among local residents that it could become a potential travellers’ camp.
The authority has issued a temporary stop notice on a former equestrian centre south of Middlemuir Croft, Whitecairns.
Local people had complained to the council over the New Year period that engineering work had been carried out in a field.
It had raised concerns that the site was being prepared for a halting location for travellers.
Council officers launched an investigation which established that planning control had been breached and took action to prevent any further work.
The council believes unauthorised excavation and the formation of soil bunding and hardstanding has been carried out at the site.
The stop notice has immediate effect and a failure to comply may result in prosecution.
Aberdeenshire Council’s head of planning, Robert Gray, said: “This notice requires the unauthroised work to cease with immediate effect and has been served following complaints from local residents and our own investigations.”
The activity at the Whitecairns site sparked fears among locals of a similar development to one at St Cyrus.
In 2013, a group of travellers bought a site near the village and began developing a permanent halting site without planning permission.
Despite a long-running legal wrangle, there are about 20 caravans parked on the site which has running water, electricity, street lighting and a toilet block.
Travellers launched a fresh bid late last year to remain on the site, which is next to the nature reserve.