REDEVELOPMENT of the landmark Wedgwood Estate, near Barlaston, threatens to turn the historic area into an eyesore and could put valuable woodland at risk, according to angry campaigners.
Stoke-on-Trent planners have given the go-ahead to a scheme to redevelop the Wedgwood factory and visitor centre and build 209 new "executive" homes on the surrounding land.
But members of the Wedgwood and Barlaston Conservation Group say the scheme is out of keeping with a countryside area of national importance because of its history - despite an undertaking by developers David Wilson Homes Mercia to design the homes in an "arts and crafts" style in keeping with the Wedgwood legacy.
They also claim that construction and maintenance traffic in the area is threatening to damage the Millennium Arboretum planted by Wedgwood and officially opened by Sir David Attenborough to celebrate the Millennium 14 years ago.
"We feel that the owners of Wedgwood are picking over the bones of the estate without regard for its long-term future conservation," said conservation group chairman George Powell, from Barlaston.
"This development is a real tragedy for the area and a significant loss of countryside and farmland when there are brownfield sites that could be built on instead."
Mr Powell said the group accepted that it was too late to stop the housing going ahead, but they were concerned about potential damage to the countryside during construction work for the homes and new factory.
And the future of the arboretum was a particular worry.
"It is not looking well-cared for at the moment," said Mr Powell, a retired tree surgeon.
"Any damage to young trees, even careless mowing around the base, can kill them off and we want assurances that there will be re-planting of any damaged areas.
"We want to ensure the arboretum is preserved as a lasting treasure and wildlife habitat for the future."
The action group was due to discuss the protection measures that could be put in place with Barlaston parish councillors this week.
Wedgwood's executive vice president and chief financial officer Anthony Jones said the scheme was a "transformative" project and the start of another "exciting" chapter for Wedgwood.
He said up to £5.1 million funding from the government's Regional Growth Fund for the new factory, offices and visitor centre would create a "world-class" development.
And Marianne Horton, land manager with David Wilson Homes Mercia said the new housing, to be called Wedgwood Park, would be a "flagship" development and "a place that people near and far will aspire to live".
"The development will meet the City Council's aspirations of diversifying the housing stock in the county to attract people to not just work in the area but to also live here," she said.