Save Our Landscapes called on the Scottish Government to intervene after South Lanarkshire councillors approved a plan by cement company Cemex to extend Hyndford Quarry into a zone surrounding New Lanark, near the picturesque Falls of Clyde
The controversial scheme was passed despite opposition from community groups and the reservations of 20 MSPs, who signed a motion calling on Scotland to protect its historical sites.
James Simpson, vice-president of the International Council for Monuments and Sites, has also warned that the project risks undermining Scotland's reputation for safeguarding its heritage.
Mark Stephens, chairman of the Save Our Landscapes campaign, said the decision to proceed with the quarry was "a sad day for Lanark, New Lanark and for Scotland". He added: "The landscape of one of its most iconic cultural assets is set to be destroyed for the sake of five years profits for a multinational cement company. This approval renders worthless the idea that planning in South Lanarkshire is governed by the policies that are adopted within the framework set by the Scottish Government.
"In accepting this advice, councillors also ignored the views of the people and communities they represent to indulge the wishes of a multinational company with a poor environmental record."
New Lanark was established in 1785 as a cotton mill village and holds a special place in Scotland's cultural history after becoming the focus of Robert Owen's utopian socialism, which provided residents with free health care and affordable education.
The Falls of Clyde are surrounded by a nature reserve managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is home to more than 100 species of birds, including a pair of nesting peregrine falcons.
However, neither Historic Scotland or Scottish Natural Heritage objected to the proposal.
Michael McGlynn, head of planning and building standards at South Lanarkshire Council, said: "Today's decision will ensure the continuing viability of the site for at least an additional five years, securing jobs and boosting the local economy. It will also ensure a detailed programme of restoration and enhancement works is carried out, as each part of the site concludes."
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The application will now be notified to Scottish Ministers who will decide whether, or not, to call in the application for their own determination."