Campaigners lose fight to save historic Middleport vicarage
HISTORIANS have lost their campaign to save a 19th century vicarage from the bulldozers.
The building in Middleport is to be demolished as part of pottery manufacturer Steelite International's planned £12 million expansion.
The firm will also knock down a row of neighbouring Victorian houses in Newcastle Street before extending its factory.
But the scheme has sparked a storm of protests from heritage groups who wanted the building, known as Heaths, to be preserved.
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They have now raised concerns that the decision to approve the clearance could lead to the area suffering in the future bids for heritage cash.
Burslem History Club member, Michelle Reynolds, aged 38, said: "I am shocked but not surprised.
"The creation of jobs is fantastic but in the long term we could see Steelite wanting to expand even more and potentially leaving the area and then we are left without this building and a vacant site."
Stoke-on-Trent City's Council's planning committee yesterday voted to approve the plans after deciding economic growth outweighed concerns over heritage.
The expansion is expected to create around 65 new jobs.
Councillor Paul Shotton, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: "I support this application with a heavy heart.
"I do love old buildings but you have to look at the reality. A listed building is only of use if it is being used.
"I was in two minds but we have seen that the firm can't build around it and it is standing in the way of progress.
"This represents a potential for 65 families with mum and dad finding employment and bringing in some money."
A petition containing 330 signatures was handed into the authority objecting to the scheme.
The Victorian Society, one of the organisations who opposed the plans, claimed the building, which dates back to 1858, had historical significance.
In 2008, Steelite improved the external appearance of the building thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund cash. However no use for the building was found.
The firm says the expansion has been prompted by increased demands for a range of its products.
Initially 26 jobs will be created before roles in production and decorating become available.
But Steelite says a wider expansion could create more than 232 jobs by 2015.
Chief executive Kevin Oakes said: "We have worked closely with conservation officers and planners to find a solution, but there simply was no alternative. We hope that all concerned can see that we are leading the way in regenerating part of Stoke-on-Trent which is in need of jobs and redevelopment.
"We are proud to be based in the Potteries and proud to be building strong foundations for the future of this industry."