Residents fearing for the future of the Donkey Field near Whitby Abbey are petitioning to have the area declared a protected village green.
Recent sewage works have led to the area being transformed from a meadow into a muddy building site, with many residents fearing the area will never be restored to its original beauty unless official conservation measures are imposed.
Nigel Ward, a member of pressure group Free Whitby, said: “This is a site that the people of this town have used for a very long time.
“The donkey field is, or was, one of Whitby’s finest treasures and untrammelled historic heritage.”
Former councillor Tom Brown, of Church Street, has produced a petition for residents to sign that will help gain village green status for the field.
In order for a patch of land to be declared a village green it must be regularly used by nearby residents for lawful recreation such as dog walking, picnicking, or picking blackberries, all of which took place on the Donkey Field prior to the work taking place.
Should the Donkey Field be declared a village green, Yorkshire Water have said they would support the idea.
Spokesman Matt Thompson said: “I think it’s fantastic if they want to turn it into a village green.
“If there is any way we can support it they should let us know.”
The protests began after Yorkshire Water contractor Peter Duffy Ltd began work to lay a pipe to connect the new holiday cottages with the sewage system.
In December that work was stopped after it came to light they were working in the field without permission from English Heritage
A group of protesters gathered at the site on Tuesday and raised a number of issues they had with the work, primarily to do with what had happened to any underlying archaeology, and why there was no health and safety signs in place.
Northern Archaeological Associates had been called in to supervise the work and have had a representative on site to ensure all the necessary precautions are taken.
Spokesman Richard Fraser said: “We have been documenting the scheme since the beginning of December and we have undertaken a recording exercise on behalf of Yorkshire Water and an investigation has taken place to ensure any archaeology is protected.
“We’ve found some evidence for an earlier roadway heading up towards the Abbey, and that would appear to be medieval in date.
“We also have a little bit of evidence for the foundations of one or two small structures that might relate to jet workers.”
Yorkshire Water spokesman Matt Thompson said: “Health and safety is always a key aspect for us.
“The reason we have seen a reduction to the barriers is because we felt it was not necessary as what we are doing now is just restoration work, we want to make sure we return it to exactly how it was before.”
Yorkshire Water were required by law to install a sewer outlet pipe from the recently-developed holiday cottage to the main sewage system and have now obtained the consent they require from both English Heritage and the Strickland Estate.
Work on the site is expected to be completed by Friday.