Newts are once again in the front line in a battle to stop hundreds of homes being built on a former university campus.

Campaigners last year lost their fight to stop developer London and Quadrant (L&Q) 231 homes being built on the former Middlesex University Campus in Cat Hill, Cockfosters.

But permission was granted under conditions imposed by Natural England that the developer must carry out a survey of newt habitats between March and May.

So campaigner Kim Coleman was "shocked" when she received a letter on Monday saying work was due to begin next week.

She said: “As the newts are currently in hibernation, there is absolutely no way they will be able to carry out this survey and are in breach of the conditions imposed.”

Ms Coleman claims that demolition cannot start before May - but says trees are already being uprooted.

She said: “I have been to the site today (February 6) and L&Q have already started chopping down trees, which could affect the newts.

“We are continuing the fight against L&Q and I will not give up the battle against this development.”

Ms Coleman also said opponents of the scheme have asked Natural England to intervene.

An L&Q spokesman said: “Following the planning consent that was issued on 2 October 2013, our contractor Quadrant Construction is now set to begin work on our Cat Hill development.

“We will create 231 well-designed homes that match the character of the local area, with a 25-year woodland management plan. Initially, this will include tree protection and pruning works, and the erection of special fencing to protect newts, in line with licenses issued to us by Natural England.

“Demolition works are planned to start on or around February 10, 2014. We have delivered a newsletter explaining this to neighbouring residents, and will continue to update our neighbours on what is happening when.”