Culture Secretary Andy Burnham visited a Grade II-listed pigeon loft threatened with demolition.
Mr Burnham was taken to the cree, on an allotment in Ryhope, near Sunderland, by local MP Fraser Kemp.
English Heritage granted it listed status in 1998 but the land’s owners, Newcastle-based Worktalent Ltd, want to redevelop the allotments.
The cree’s owner, 75-year-old Maurice Surtees, and 21 other allotment holders have vowed to save the loft and the surrounding land and their efforts have been backed by local campaign groups and MPs.
The allotment holders were offered a Â£250,000 compensation package to move out, but they all turned it down.
Another developer has started talks with Worktalent hoping to broker a deal to save the site.
Mr Surtees said: “My message to the developer is if he has got any decency, take the offer and leave us alone.
“We just want to live in peace. Give up? Never. I’d rather drop down dead than give up.”
Mr Burnham said: “The cree is a unique piece of culture in this part of the world.
“I represent an area similar to this one in the North West and from my point of view heritage is not just in other parts of the country.
“We have got to celebrate our culture wherever we find it.
“The cree is listed for a good reason. I know there is a decision on-going and it is not for me to intervene in that.”
The row has reached Parliament where Labour MP Fraser Kemp, whose constituency includes the cree, tabled a Commons motion backing the pigeon fanciers.
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