THEY are so tiny and they spend most of the time asleep.

But now the lovely furry mammals could block plans for a multi-million pound log cabin holiday village in Hampshire.

The tiny creature has been spotted at the site of the 130-cabin village planned near Winchester.

Because the dormouse is legally protected it could now jeopardise the whole scheme.

Developer Forest Holidays estimates the site, which will include 276 car parking spaces, could attract up to 150,000 visitors per year. The scheme includes woodland walks, cycle hire and a forest ranger education programme.

But dormice and other protected mammals, including bats and polecats, were discovered in a survey of the site. That could halt the development at Black Wood, Micheldever .

Winchester City Council officials were due on Friday to decide whether to use their delegated powers or refer it to planning committee later this spring. Black Wood is designated a Site of Importance For Nature Conservation. Half the site is ancient woodland.

Natural England, the Government body responsible for protecting wildlife, is among more than 100 objectors to the planning application.

Others include Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Hampshire County Council’s environment department, Winchester City Council’s landscape and tree officers, the Dever Society and Micheldever Parish Council.

The common or hazel dormouse is extinct in six English counties. The shy creature lives in trees and spends about three-quarters of the year asleep. In a letter of objection, Stephen Brook, of Natural England, said development could lead to “a loss of important habitat” for the rare animals.

He said one cluster of cabins was earmarked for “an area of existing dormouse habitat.”

Natural England said disturbance, from construction noise, increased number of visitors, barbecues, campfires and dogs could result in dormice leaving the woodland.

Black Wood is owned by the Forestry Commission and currently managed as a commercial plantation with some informal recreational use. Forest Holidays, a joint venture between the Forestry Commission and the Camping and Caravanning Club, estimates the scheme could create 65 new jobs and pump £5m a year into the local economy. The company says fewer trees will be chopped than if it remained a commercial plantation.

Richard Palmer, operations director for Forest Holidays said: “Because of the existence of potential habitat we are liaising with Natural England.

In the event of a successful planning application, then the potential habitat would be dealt with under a separately issued licence.”