Council chiefs say they are looking into the aggressive cutting back of scores of trees off Hermitage Park in Lepton, which was done without the knowledge or the permission of the landowner.
The 31-acre site is the property of Lord Dartmouth, forming part of the Dartmouth Estate.
It is earmarked for hundreds of new houses as part of Kirklees Council’s Local Plan.
Among the trees affected were oaks said to have been planted by 18th century landscape gardener Capability Brown.
Locals have expressed their anger at the impact of the works, which has also seen hedges removed.
One man described it as “reckless and wanton destruction”.
He added: “Articulated mechanical diggers and cutters have decimated the oak trees and hedgerows at Great Lepton Woods and surrounding green fields.
“The hedgerows have been hacked and ripped out in the centre of the meadow. They have have been scythed to an extremely low level. Trees existing in the hedgerows being hacked down. Ivy trees have been torn out.
“The cutting of oak trees at this time of year will probably be their death knell. They will be open to disease as they produce sap in spring. They will die a long death. This destruction is preparation for the building of houses on a mass scale.
“The ancient woods are under a separate owner to the fields. What cooperation is taking place?”
James Bradley of managing agents Carter Jonas said it had not given permission for the tree cutting to be carried out. He described the damage as “unfortunate”.
Kirklees Council’s strategic director for environment and climate change, Colin Parr, said: “The council have been made aware of works carried out on some trees on the Dartmouth Estate, which include unsympathetic pruning of some of the branches.
“Investigations into this have shown that three of the 20 affected trees have Tree Protection Orders. An investigation will now be carried out as to whether a criminal offence has been committed in relation to these trees.
“The council has also issued Tree Protection Orders to further protect the remaining trees at this location, which come into effect immediately. We can confirm the works that have been carried out without permission are not detrimental to the life of any of the trees in the long term.”