The boss of one of Birmingham's oldest metal-bashing companies has hit out at conservationists for "throwing a spanner in the works" by objecting to his plans to redevelop a prime Jewellery Quarter site.

Russell Luckock, managing director of A E Harris, said he would consider moving the company to South Wales if he fails in a long fight to gain planning permission to build flats, offices and shops on the firm's Northwood Street site.

His efforts to relocate the 120-year-old company to a more suitable site have been frustrated by city councillors and conservation groups who object to the amount of housing Mr Lucock wants to build on the A E Harris site.

They claim the scheme is out of keeping with the Jewellery Quarter Management Plan, which gives priority to preserving existing industry and encouraging new companies.

Mr Luckock said he was only prepared to cut the amount of housing proposed for the site if, by doing so, he did not reduce the value of the land, which he needs to sell to pay relocation costs.

Remaining at the sprawling Northwood Street is not an option, according to Mr Luckock, if A E Harris was to become competitive in a global marketplace.

He said: "The council knows what we have got to raise from this site. The council's own consultants have checked our figures and looked at the findings."

Members of the city council's planning committee had misgivings about the scale of development proposed but have not yet decided whether to grant planning permission.

The mixed-use development proposed was described by the Jewellery Quarter Association as "reminiscent of the Hockley slums which the city cleared 60 years ago".

However, the Birmingham Civic Society said the scheme would enhance the environment of the Jewellery Quarter.

Mr Luckock said the delay was making it more likely the firm would eventually have to find a new home outside Birmingham, probably in a region where relocation grants were available.

He added: "I have already missed one absolutely ideal place where we could have moved A E Harris lock, stock and barrel if it wasn't for the conservationist people throwing a spanner in the works.

"I do not know what forces are at work here but it is doing nothing to help Midland manufacturing.

"I have spent three years drawing up plans with council officers and now I am stuck up against politicians.

"I want to remain in Birmingham but the council has to understand that I could go down to South Wales and get grant aid for relocation. I don't really want to do that because I would rather stay here."

Mr Luckock believes the council is being unrealistic in insisting on maintaining industry in the Jewellery Quarter.

He added: "Fifty years ago the Jewellery Quarter was a vibrant manufacturing operation. Today, only about ten per cent is manufacturing and the rest is retail.

"I f you want a successful retail operation you have to have people to go into the shops. You need housing."