Planning officials have been criticised for recommending the demolition of a listed Victorian house in Birmingham and its replacement by ten new dwellings to be built in the garden.

The derelict property, Highfield House in Hall Green, which dates from 1850, is said by developers to be structurally unsound and too dilapidated to refurbish.

But almost 1,000 residents, local councillors and the Victorian Society have signed petitions denouncing the proposal as "garden-grabbing" and claiming that owners of the property are interested only in making money.

The city planning committee last week deferred a decision on an application to build four four-bedroom houses and six flats on the site, on the corner of Highfield Road and Robin Hood Lane.

Chairman David Roy ordered conservation officials to "pore over" the application and decide whether there was any way in which Highfield House could be saved.

Hall Green councillor Michael Wilkes said he could not understand why planning officers were recommending demolition of the property and claimed details of a report by conservation officers had been withheld from the public.

Coun Wilkes (Lib Dem) said: "No one is in favour of this proposal except those who seek to profit from it and, alas, senior planning officers."

He said Highfield House was the third oldest property in Hall Green and regarded as a distinctive local landmark.

Coun Wilkes added: "The demolition of Highfield House would be another blow to the character of Hall Green.

"Conservation officers say it is an important and highly-conspicuous local building and demolition would be totally contrary to policies in the Birmingham Plan.

"The proposed scheme does not contribute to the area in the same way and is out of context with the surrounding area."

Highfield House features on the council's list of important buildings worthy of preservation.

However John Dring, from Baker Goodchild Architects, said site owners Stone Developments had concluded after lengthy deliberation that it could not be saved.

The roof would have to be replaced along with some of the walls and the cost of doing so would be prohibitive, he said. "The most advantageous scheme would be one that would add to the quality of the existing built environment and the quality of the area. This proposal will add to the attractiveness of the public realm," Mr Dring added.

Coun Roy (Con Sutton Vesey) said the proposal for new homes on the site had "a lot to commend it", but he accepted there was considerable public concern about the loss of Highfield House.

Council planning officer Victoria Barnett warned: "Whilst I consider that the loss of this building is unfortunate, given the powers that are available to the local planning authority I consider that a refusal to grant planning permission for this scheme on the grounds of the loss of a locally listed building could not be substantiated at appeal."

* Birmingham is to have a permanent ice rink for the first time in five years.

The city planning committee approved an application to replace the former city centre Silver Blades rink in Pershore Street, which burnt down in 2003. The new rink will be on the ground floor of a 12-storey development of flats, shops, offices, bars and restaurants.