Villagers say a restoration plan at a Northampton stately home is a 'trojan horse' to let developers build over 200 homes near the site.
Housing developers Barry Howard Homes purchased Overstone Hall, off Sywell Road, in Overstone, in 2016 with plans to renovate the burnt-out manor into flats.
But in a letter to Overstone residents from planning consultancy firm Framptons, they outlined a proposal to fund the renovation by building up to 220 homes in the fields on and around the hall.
Villagers have now formed the Overstone RUINED group [their capitals] to protest the proposals and block any resulting planning applications.
A petition to protest against the proposal started by the group's founder, Steve Betts, has now attracted 500 signatures.
Mr Betts said: "We want to see the hall get renovated but not at this cost.
"The whole idea of restoring the hall is to maintain it as a heritage asset for future generations. But converting it into flats and building a housing estate around it is hardly in keeping with its heritage values, we feel.
"Overstone is only a small village of 750 residents and a housing development on this scale will quite literally double it in size.
"There will only be one road leading to or from the new estate and with the potential for 400 or more cars having to turn onto an already busy road opposite the local primary school is a recipe for disaster.
"It's a Trojan horse. Just unnecessary development, disguised as a deserving conservation project.”
Two other development projects, Overstone Green and Overstone Leys, would see 5,500 new dwellings near the village.
Overstone Hall, a Victorian grade-II listed building, has been derelict since a fire in 2001. Previous owners, the New Testament Church of God, sold the hall to Barry Howard Homes in July 2016.
Barry Howard Homes aim to use profits from the proposed housing to fund the £28m renovation project through the 'enabling development' scheme, backed by Historic England.
It allows developments that would normally be considered unacceptable to go ahead if the 'resulting public benefits outweigh the harm'.
With planning permission, they would be able to build on the fields surrounding Overstone Hall.
Mike Warren, district councillor for Overstone and Moulton, said: "Overstone Hall is a very important, historic and beautiful building. I am in support of the renovation project but they must sort out what they plan to do about the housing as it has clearly upset a lot of people."
Barry Howards Homes said: "BHH has a huge restoration plan for the Overstone Hall estate. It's a really challenging project but will save one of Northampton's most important historical buildings."
Speaking in July 2016, Daventry District Council’s strategic planning portfolio holder councillor David James, said: “Achieving the restoration of Overstone Hall after it was ravaged by fire 15 years ago has been a long-standing objective for our council.
“We reaffirmed our commitment to securing this historic building’s future in our budget three years ago and since then we have worked hard to move things forward. It has been a long and challenging journey at times, but we are now in a position where the goal of restoration appears to be within reach.
“It’s an important part of our district’s heritage and we look forward to working closely with the site’s new owners to bring forward an enabling scheme in line with Historic England’s policy for consideration by the council as a planning authority.”