A PROTESTER was arrested yesterday as workers began cutting down vegetation at Thrupp Lake, near Radley, ahead of dumping ash at the site.

More than a dozen protesters arrived after learning the preparatory work had started for the controversial plan to dump spent fuel ash from Didcot power station, quickly followed by police.

Last week, seven squatters were evicted from Sandles House at the site and one man, called The Ant, has set up a camp outside the boundary to continue the protest.

Yesterday, after the workers moved in, he went into the lakeside area to stop them. After refusing to leave, he was arrested by police.

Before his arrest, he said: "They have moved in to start work on cutting down trees and vegetation in readiness for bigger work later on.

"It's criminal what this big company is doing to a beautiful lake area. We plan to stop them."

RWE npower spokesman, Kelly Brown, said: "To prepare the site for ash disposal, we are undertaking further ecological survey work and commencing essential vegetation clearance. Any vegetation removal will be kept to an absolute minimum, with as much of the surrounding bank vegetation as possible being retained.

"A tree-planting programme will begin following initial construction. Vegetation clearance will be completed outside the bird-nesting season. During the works programme every effort will be made to cause as little disruption as possible to local residents."

RWE npower's decision to move in has angered the pressure group Save Radley Lakes. Its members have been fighting the company for two years to prevent the lake being used as a dumping ground for 500,000 tonnes of ash.

It wants the area designated Town Green status to protect it from any form of development.

One of the activists opposed to the company's plans, Rev Malcolm Carroll, said: "Tree-felling has begun despite moves to establish Town Green status and an instruction by the National Trust to wait for an otter survey. A team has been sent to deforest the land, in a move which many will see as both illegal and immoral."

Mr Carroll said other campaigners had been activated and protesters planned to converge on the site.

A member of Save Radley Lakes, Peter Harbour, visited the site this week with representatives of the Environment Agency, Natural England, and an ecological company employed by npower.

Mr Carroll said no otters were found but that did not mean that they didn't use the area. He said: "It's appalling what is being done and needs stopping.

"We are consulting lawyers to see what legal action can be taken against npower. We say the company should not touch the lake until a decision has been taken on the application on Town Green status for the area."

Earlier, The Ant said he planned to invite pop star Kylie Minogue to visit him and fellow campaigners at the site. He said he had met her and had contacts with her band.

The Ant has pitched his tent outside Sandles House and named his site Camp Kylie.