A charity which has spent £270,000 restoring a centuries-old cottage could pull out after councillors turned down plans to re-thatch the building.
Councillors and some local groups have been incensed by comments suggesting re-roofing the early 17th century building in Sutton would put it at risk of being torched by youngsters from the nearby Bransholme estate.
The Building At Risk Preservation trust has now apologised but say they were merely reporting comments made by passers-by.
However councillors at a planning committee meeting took offence. They have rejected a fresh planning application to put clay tiles on instead.
Antony Dale, a volunteer for the trust, said he felt “utter despair” after years of hard work and effort put into a building which had lingered on the at-risk register for years.
Mr Dale said: “The trust has absolutely made an unmitigated apology.
“We are terribly sorry that this has been whipped up into a situation where we are being accused of saying appalling things about Bransholme residents.
“It was not our view, we were reporting the views expressed by locals – after all we were the ones who applied to thatch it originally.
“We have worked so hard so to hear remarks like the site is an “utter shambles” is downright insulting.
“The council’s conservation officer led the campaign to save this building; we were the only building preservation trust in the country brave enough to take it on.
“Our views about the community can be demonstrated by the fact we have come from out of the area and invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in it; when we go away it will be an asset to the local area and people will be able to come and see this beautiful building we have saved.
“This is not something we make money from it’s about saving a piece of history.”
He went on: “We are considering our options. If we are not wanted here then we might be better off letting it go and letting someone else finish it.
“I do think the council should be supporting this rather than putting spokes in the wheel.”
Charman of the planning committee Sean Chaytor said the remarks were “rather inappropriate and totally incorrect”, and said the trust should have explained itself better.
He said they were free to appeal or resubmit the application with a minor change and the committee was still keen on seeing the building bought back to life as a home.
Coun Chaytor said: “The committee made a decision based on written evidence, there was no verbal representation from the applicant.
“If the applicant wants to resubmit with additional evidence they can. If they’d come along and explained why the pantiles were appropriate they may well have got agreement but they didn’t –perhaps putting in a comment in their submission that was ill-judged didn’t help them.”
“There is no reason why it couldn’t be determined at the July meeting at the latest.”
The trust acquired the building in 2009 when water was dripping through the sagging roof and the back wall was on the verge of collapse. The plan is to turn it into two cottages – with the larger sold to help pay for the cost of restoration.