Greater protection should be given to green spaces to halt the concreting over of the city’s ‘lungs’, Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said.

The Labour MP warned the combination of a steady flow of people into the city for work, the tight green belt boundary and the presumption properties should be built at high densities was threatening the quality of life of residents.

He said: “It can end up destroying those residential areas, as gardens are concreted over, corner plots are turned into flats and parking services are put under enormous strain, which the landlords who are carrying out the conversions are not making payments towards.”

He added residential areas that were originally planned with generous gardens and pleasant open spaces, inspired by garden city principles, had been under “remorseless attack” from infill, conversions to multiple occupation and increasing numbers of garages and sheds.

He told the House of Commons: “In Oxford, it is difficult to build on the edge of our city, because the green belt is drawn too tightly and needs revising. There is also the economic and academic vitality of the city, which sucks in lots of jobs and students. The coupling of those two factors creates a pressure-cooker effect.”

Helena Whall, Oxfordshire campaign manager for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, supported the call and warned against spurious ‘brownfield’ development.

She said: “We have for many years been urging the Government to address ‘garden-grabbing’. Thousands of new homes each year that ministers claim are going up on brownfield sites are actually being built in back gardens.

“Most people assume that when the Government talks about building on brownfield sites it means ex-industrial land. They have no idea that much of it is actually attractive, green, environmentally important gardens.

“It is making a mockery of a planning system which should be prioritising genuine brownfield sites for development and not encouraging the loss of open green space within cities.”

Mr Smith wants to see land at Grenoble Road, near Greater Leys, developed for homes to ease pressure on the city’s housing stock.

He said: “The gardens, open spaces and trees in our urban areas act as lungs, and make areas look nice, so that people want to live there.

“They sustain ecological diversity and contribute something distinctive and positive to the quality of life of individuals and whole communities.

“The Government would do themselves and the country a great deal of good if they embraced the idea of giving stronger protection to gardens, as well as giving councils more power to decide when conversions to multiple occupation are appropriate, but with a comprehensive licensing system to police them where necessary, as it most certainly is in Oxford.”