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

About 30 protesters arrived after learning the preparatory work had started for the controversial plan to dump spent fuel ash from Didcot Power Station. They were quickly followed by police.

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

On Wednesday, after workers moved in, he went in to the lakeside area to stop them. After refusing to leave, he was arrested by police on suspicion of aggravated trespass.

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 because it says the area is a haven for wildlife.

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

Marjorie White, who does publicity and fundraising for Save Radley Lakes, said the protester Ant had run towards men in black balaclavas and had been pushed to the ground.

She said: "He refused to move until the police came."

She said about 30 Save Radley Lakes protesters were at the site on Wednesday.

Save Radley Lakes chairman Dr Basil Crowley added: "npower have a sign on the gates to the house there explaining what they are doing.

"It says they are undertaking clearance work over the next two weeks. I don't know exactly what that entails but it is under the supervision of an ecologist.

"They do seem to be getting heavy-handed with some protesters."

Ms Brown denied security at the site had been threatening to campaigners and said they were just doing their job.

Another opponent, the Rev Malcolm Carrol, said: "Tree-felling has begun despite moves to establish Town Green status."

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

Meanwhile, six protesters have been banned from picketing, setting up camp around Radley Lakes or taking photographs of workers, under a High Court injunction.

RWE npower won the wide-ranging injunction this week limiting much of the protesters' actions because it claimed its staff had been threatened.

It is understood most of the six were squatters at Sandles House last week, but they also include local campaigner Dr Peter Harbour.

Dr Harbour and opposition group Save Radley Lakes condemned the order as an attempt to stifle legitimate protest. RWE npower spokesman Ms Brown denied this.

Under the order, the six people, and anyone else served with it, are banned from assaulting or threatening RWE npower or contractors' staff; taking photographs of them; publishing any identifying details about them; demonstrating at the lakes or public roads leading to them; and setting up camps within half a mile of one lake or carrying various bits of equipment like locks within a mile of the area.

Save Radley Lakes has also been ordered to put the injunction on its website and forward it to all its members.

Ms Brown said: "Photographs have been taken of individuals and vehicles in a menacing way and it has left our employees feeling extremely threatened. We need to protect our staff. This is because of intimidation and harassment."

But Dr Harbour, 67, said: "I am flabbergasted that an order has come out with my name on it.

"It seems to suggest I am going to attack them in some way.

"It is extraordinary when the law is drawn in to help a rich and powerful company to curb free speech."

He would be seeking legal advice and would abide by the order, but said it would not stop him protesting in any way he was still allowed to.

A spokesman for Save Radley Lakes said it had used only peaceful and lawful means of protest and was unhappy about forwarding the order to all its members.