Diggers sent to drill 30-metre boreholes in fields earmarked for a housing estate have left a trail of muddy destruction, say the owners of a livery stables who rent the land.

Persimmon Homes applied to Bradford Council last year to build 270 homes on 20 acres at Cote Farm beside Leeds Road, Thackley.

The builders had permission to test drill the land for drainage and geological make-up in advance of any decision but Cote Farm Stables bosses Robert and Deborah Lucas, who have rented the land for 17 years, were horrified when contractors with a six-tonne JCB arrived this week and ploughed up the rain-soaked land.

“I had a letter early last year saying they would be drilling, but they had the three driest months of July, August and September to do it and didn’t bother,” said Mr Lucas, 53.

“Instead they’ve waited until the wettest time possible.

“I won’t put a tractor on those fields through the winter because it’s always too wet. And although I advised them not to do it, they turned up with a JCB on road tyres which slipped all over the place and has left massive deep ruts.”

The work was scheduled to take two days but due to the boggy conditions the 17 horses in their care have been trapped in their stables since Monday, unable to get into the 37 acres of fields.

The first digger was replaced with a larger version with caterpillar tracks which was due to finish yesterday. While better able to cope with the conditions, it too has left great swathes of churned earth across fields where the horses are let out for exercise.

The machines dug three-metre deep holes and free-standing drills bored 30 metres to check for gas and the soil conditions. Persimmon has pledged to restore the field but when the holes were refilled, it just added to the mud and mess, according to the couple.

“I’m worried what will happen when we let the horses back out,” said Mrs Lucas, 50. “It’s so rutted and slippery that it’s potentially dangerous for them and it’s all so unnecessary.

“They could have easily waited until the ground was dry and now the fields are all churned up and it will be May before we can get them right. I’m so angry and upset that I’m lost for words.”

Mr and Mrs Lucas said they had not commented on the development until now, but now felt they had been treated without due respect.

“If the development is approved, then we’re finished here and some of the last few green spaces in Bradford will disappear,” Mrs Lucas said.

“And it has already started to affect us, as sadly some people have already moved their horses out.”

Wayne Gradwell, managing director at Persimmon Homes West Yorkshire, told the Telegraph & Argus: “The ground will be made good following the completion of works.”