CONTRACTORS face possible prosecution after allegedly scything through a badgers' sett near the Basingstoke Canal.

Work on the gas pipeline has now been halted while a top level investigation is held into any damage to the sett near Deepcut Flight lock.

Badgers are a protected species and contractors Morrisons, who are digging the trench for Transco, could be taken to court under the Wildlife Act.

Canal Ranger Peter Munt (left) ordered the workmen off the site last Friday after he discovered that they had allegedly destroyed the animals' underground home.

He said: "I don't understand how it could have happened because they had walked the route and marked it out.

"I'm very upset at what has happened because, since starting this job just over 10 years ago I've kept a guardian eye on the sett." He added that it was not yet known if any badgers had been killed by the contractor's machinery. "We haven't touched the sett because investigations are still going on," said Mr Munt.

A Transco spokesman said: "We treat complaints such as this very seriously." He was unable to comment further until aftera meeting tomorrow (Friday).