Outraged residents have called for a halt to plans to develop a unique piece of the county’s history.

Eden District Council have green-lighted proposals for the 19th Century Wetheriggs Pottery and surrounding land, in the hamlet of Clifton Dykes, near Penrith, to be converted into five homes.

The site had previously closed in 2008 and had included a zoo.

Now a change.org petition has skyrocketed and has nearly reached 1,500 signatures, by the time of publication.

Professional potter Russell Akerman, 47, from Lancaster, started the online petition on Sunday, February 2, after learning of pottery’s fate.

Russell said: “I actually started my career at Wetheriggs about 20 years ago, it was my first introduction to pottery.

“The way this has gone through is completely under the radar, I’m sure the local people of Penrith have all got a bit of Wetheriggs pottery in their homes, it’s part of their heritage.

“For most of its history it was a viable pottery and it was only the parent company that owned who got into financial difficulties - it closed through no fault of its own.

“Their are so many historic trusts around, we need someone like Beamish museum to step in.”

He said that the pottery has many historic features and a pond that is full of Great Crested Newts which is a protected species.

Councillor Jonathan Davies, vice chairman of Clifton Parish Council, said: “My feeling is that this is of an historic national importance and it has been there for a long time. The site needs to be protected, not made into luxury houses, I support the need for affordable housing but for luxury homes here, I think it is a destruction of our heritage.

“Once it is developed it will not be publicly accessible.”

Plans include the building of five detached garages and converting the beehive kiln, associated drying sheds, workshops and engine room to a home.

Scores of residents have taken to social media to express their outrage.

Lee Poland said: “Everywhere historical is getting redeveloped, what a waste.”

James Hodgson said: Utterly deplorable that a building with such as wonderful local connection would be considered for planning permission of all things. Keep the potteries.”

Janet Langley said: “We do not need to get rid of our creative past just for houses.”

Neil Le-Sage, from Stoneswood Developments Ltd, said that plans for the pottery had been misrepresented in the petition and that everything has been done in accordance with Historic England, the Government body that looks after the country’s built heritage.

He said: “If this does not happen then it would fall down, it has been empty for a long time.

“A huge amount of work needs to be done, it is going to cost about £1m to do.

“The problem is that when Historic England went there it was in a sorry state of repair and they were horrified how much it had deteriorated.”

He added that the houses on the five acre site would be in keeping with the surrounding area and their would be a three month survey to ensure the Great Created Newts are not harmed during the development .

Plans also include opening the site to public visitors for a couple of weekends every year.

According to the heritage statement: “The new buildings will improve the setting of the designated heritage assets compared to the current zoo and holiday buildings and the proposed houses.

“It is considered that the proposed conservation of the historical buildings and

structures will have a high positive impact upon their significance and the residential conversion is essential to finding a sustainable use that will ensure they are maintained into the future.”