Museum chiefs have said the continuing viability of the attraction depends on a massive cash handout from Countryside Properties - a multi-million pound windfall which the developer has agreed to hand over once a 145-flat scheme is approved by Bristol City Council.
However, a number of groups, including the influential Bristol Civic Society, have objected to the Great Western Dockyard proposals, drawn up by Stride Treglown, because of the potential impact on the setting of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's famous liner.
Society chairman John Payne said: 'We are concerned about the scale of the proposed development, especially that some of the buildings will be too high.
'We feel the scheme will not only reduce the impact of the iconic silhouette of the masts of the SS Great Britain, but also that the development - in particular two residential blocks - is out of sympathy with the buildings to the west.'
He added: 'It is a common argument to say that if a development doesn't go ahead it will lead to economic collapse. But maybe there are other ways of contributing to the ongoing maintenance of the ship.'
However, a spokesman for the museum, which won the 2006 Gulbenkian Museum of the Year prize, said that the dockyard development was essential to the future of the attraction and that it had always been agreed with the council that money from the project would be handed over as an endowment for upkeep of the newly restored ship.
The scheme is expected to go before Bristol City planners in early December.