The Goodfellas star, 73, has teamed up with Australian billionaire James Packer, 49, on the project, which would invest $250 million (£204 million) in rebuilding the famous K Club resort over 10 years.

According to Barbudian law, the islanders have to assent to the plans, with the project gaining approval at a meeting last year (15).

However, 1,500 islanders have now signed a petition challenging the result of the meeting claiming the $6.2 million (£5.1 million) the developers have paid for a 198 year lease amounts to a huge giveaway and that their demand to be leased 300 extra acres in addition to the K Club's existing 251 is excessive.

Antigua and Barbuda's government responded by passing an act formally agreeing to De Niro and Packer's plans, an act the angry islanders claim is unconstitutional.

MACKenzie Frank, the leader of the Barbuda People's Movement, who are protesting the project told Britain's Daily Telegraph, "No one objects to the K Club being re-opened, but they want so much extra land. There are an awful lot of issues at stake."

The protesters are reportedly threatening to take their legal challenge all the way to Britain's Privy Council, the ultimate court of appeal in the British Commonwealth nation.

Speaking about his plans for the resort on a visit to the island last year De Niro said, "I have been coming to Antigua and Barbuda since I was in my early 20s. It's about making it very, very special. That's why we have to curate it and make sure it's done in the right way. I wouldn't do it if I didn't feel that's the only way it can be done."

Packer was rumoured to be planning to wed ex-fiancee Mariah Carey at the resort, until they split this autumn (16).