English Heritage has been accused of neglecting one of the West Midlands' oldest ruins.
The remnants of Halesowen Abbey, which was founded in the 13th century, stand within Manor Abbey Farm, off the A456 Manor Way.
The Halesowen Abbey Trust claims the historic site could be under threat if the Government watchdog fails to supervise the creation of six small barn conversions. It claimed English Heritage had failed to supervise previous unauthorised work on the site.
Owner Chris Tudor, who bought the land in 1993, said he was unsure what the trust meant by “unauthorised work” and said he was willing to work with English Heritage.
The site is protected under the Ancient Monument and Archeological Areas Act and has the same status as Stonehenge. But the trust claims the abbey has far from enjoyed the same privileges as the Wiltshire site.
Trust honorary secretary Mick Freer said: “It’s hard to believe that Stonehenge and Halesowen Abbey enjoy the same level of protection from English Heritage.”
He claimed there had been a high level of unauthorised work at the abbey over the years, which went unsupervised by the Government quango.
“Previously, when permission was given for work, the organisation didn’t oversee much of what was going on. Members of the trust watched from a public footpath and we saw an enormous number of examples of unauthorised work.
“It really was a distressing situation that was only spotted by our members – even though the work on the farmhouse took over 12 months to complete. English Heritage were notified and confirmed our observations.
“The organisation decided not to take legal action or any other punitive measures apart from advising the owner to not do it again.”
Mr Tudor said the organisation could be refering to gableing erected during building work. He said he was never ordered to take the gableing down.
“Our concerns are with English Heritage,” added Roy Burgess, chairman of the trust. “The organisation will say that it has many monuments that it has to look after, but how many of them are undergoing work?
"We need more support from English Heritage. We have a good relationship with Mr Tudor and we work together well when organising open days.”
Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris has waded in on the battle with the Government-run organisation.
He told a Commons debate: “The trust argues that lasting damage has been caused, for example through repeated unauthorised tipping, to this site of national significance.
“As a consequence, there has been a substantial drop in the number of visitors to the site, from around 1,800 visitors in one weekend alone in 1989 to the temporary ending of public access in 2001.
"If English Heritage is saying now that it has neither sufficient resources to protect our heritage from unauthorised works, nor the will to take appropriate action against those undertaking such works, there are some serious questions about its role and validity in this case.”
An English Heritage spokesman said: “Halesowen Abbey is one of the most important historic sites in the country. As a monument in the guardianship of the Secretary of State, it is a site which English Heritage is very proud to be involved with.
"Our staff visit the abbey on a regular basis, and we are absolutely committed to working with the Halesowen Abbey Trust to facilitate public access to the site.
“Unauthorised works occurred across the site some years ago and English Heritage prepared a file for prosecution; which was not taken forward by the Crown Prosecution Service.
“We are dedicated to protecting the sensitive archaeology on the site and we have made it clear that the residential scheme planned, which poses minimal threat to this, will need to be informed by an archaeological assessment.
"We will continue to make regular visits to the site and to work with all interested parties.”