Heavy machinery began tearing up the ground at a historic estate near Leatherhead yesterday after a court ruled developers could start work to create an exclusive golf course.

In March campaigners won an injunction to halt construction work as they sought a judicial review over the approval of plans for a golf course, luxury hotel and spa at Cherkley Court, which was home to newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook.

But after a hearing last week a High Court judge permitted Longshot Cherkley Court to start removing topsoil and carrying out other limited works under a new injunction.

The Cherkley Campaign has secured a judicial review to be held in the next few months over Mole Valley Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the multimillion pound project.

Andy Smith, Surrey branch director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which is backing campaigners, said the developers started to strip topsoil yesterday.

Mr Smith said: "The court allowed a limited amount of work to go ahead pending the main hearing on the assurance by Longshot that they could restore the land as it was before, and on an undertaking by them to do so if the development does not go ahead.

"Cherkley Campaign's grounds for judicial review are based on the failure of Mole Valley's councillors to determine the application in accordance with the Local Development Plan.

"There is blatantly no need for another exclusive golf course in Surrey, let alone one on an accessible and visible landscape in the Surrey Hills."

Longshot spokesman Nick Kilby said they were removing topsoil to prepare to reshape the land to create a golf course, but were not planning 'major' movement of earth before the judicial review.

Mr Kilby said: "It’s all systems go. We are comfortable with the judge’s decision."

He said on Wednesday the judge rejected five of the campaigners’ grounds for review and deemed the remaining three grounds to be ‘arguable’.

Mr Kilby said: "Longshot welcomes the judgement and remains supremely confident that when the judicial review finally takes place in the coming weeks, the three remaining points will be dismissed."

He said the application of herbicide and harrowing of land, which were prohibited in March but permitted by a court order in April, had now finished.

Harrowing involves dragging a heavy agricultural implement over the soil to break up, or level, the surface.