East Ayrshire Council has played down fears that work has begun on a controversial housing site in Sorn before planning permission has even been granted.

Residents contacted the Chronicle this week to claim the developers had been working on the site and clearing topsoil.

But the council said the work by builders Campbell Homes has been agreed in advance - and would have no effect on the still-to-be-determined planning application.

The site work going on - which is due to end on Friday - includes the digging of a trench to support archaeological investigation of the site and a trench for the laying of an electricity cable.

It said the building company had permission to remove topsoil from the site to preserve it while this work was going on.

Some 29 homes have been planned for Catrine Road in the village, along the B713 road - with this road being the site's main road access.

The application could see Sorn's population increase by at least a third. And there have been around 20 objections from residents to the development so far.

Plans include potential for six five-bedroom houses, 15 four-bedroom houses and eight three-bedroom houses.

East Ayrshire Council said the timescale for the application to be approved or rejected has still to be determined as "significant matters" relating to the treatment of foul water and sewage had still to be addressed by the developer.

One resident told the Chronicle this week: "A few people complained to the council. The planning has not been approved but they have started work on the site. 

"Sorn has a web page and the perception of people posting on that site is that something it very fishy about the work."

However, East Ayrshire Council said: "The council is aware of the current activity on the site and has responded to a number of reports about this through both regular attendance and engagement on site by the planning enforcement officer, as well as direct contact between the head of service and the developer.

"The position is that certain permitted works relating to the digging of a trench to support archaeological investigation of the site, and the digging of a trench for the laying of an electricity cable (which is permitted development) have been undertaken.

"On the back of that, the developer has also taken certain measures to preserve the topsoil disturbed by that activity and to tidy up those parts of the proposed site.

"The developer has given assurance that this activity will be completed and the site vacated by Friday, September 8.

"The developer is also aware that should there be any unauthorised works on the site prior to determination of the current application, then the council will take any appropriate enforcement action which may be required.

"In that regard it is not possible to give any timescale for the application to be presented to the planning committee for determination as there are certain significant matters which still require to be addressed by the developer relating to the proposed arrangements for the treatment of foul water and sewage from the development."

Campbell Homes has been contacted for comment.