You must have known right from the start of this project that there would be opposition in some way, shape or form; a number of residents, some vocal others maybe not so, who would not fully understand the reasoning to build a new village hall with a 30 space car park on the edge of the village in an AONB. So in truth you must have recognized the whole project would always be both sensitive, objectionable (and controversial..!), and you would therefore need to be totally upfront, honest and transparent.
So for the first time you are putting a mechanical digger into the field and digging three trenches..!
Without prior warning or explanation I would certainly consider that objectionable (I don't recall using the word "controversial"). Do you honestly believe that everyone with an active interest in the goings on in that field would just drive or walk past such an activity without being affected in some way..?
How difficult was it for you to have put something in the December 2016 Update about your followup intentions to the inconclusive Geophysics Survey of January 2016..?