FIELDS being lined up for hundreds of homes could harbour potentially harmful gases, experts have warned.

A ditch 'bubbling' with gas sparked concern from council officers scrutinising plans for 354 homes in Sutton Courtenay, who claimed the site could pose 'risks to human health'.

London Regeneration Ltd hopes to build the homes off Harwell Road alongside a medical centre and community facilities, and has been talking with Vale of White Horse District Council for months in attempt to appease concerns.

The developer submitted a ground gas risk assessment in reaction to fears about the site's location near landfill sites, but the council's heath and housing officers said it 'failed to provide sufficient evidence' to prove that it would be safe to proceed.

A comment lodged last week from council officers said: "We are aware of the potential presence of landfill gas bubbling in the drainage ditch at the western boundary of the former Hobbyhorse Lane landfill.

"The potential for generation of ground gases from the adjacent landfill sites is considered to be high to very high.

"Risks from any land contamination to future occupiers of the proposed development have [not] been adequately assessed to ensure the safety of the development; including any potential risks to human health."

But London Regeneration's director Roger Freedman insisted there was 'no evidence of ground gas that could be harmful to humans'.

He said: "There are established methods of making [ground gas] safe.

"The landfill site immediately adjacent to our site has been decommissioned and subject to remedial works. Landfill sites further away to the east are scheduled for similar decommissioning long before our development reaches anywhere near [there]."

The council is due to decide on the outline application by February 10, and despite objection Mr Freedman said he was 'confident' it would be allowed.

The site is not earmarked for development in the council's Local Plan and comes alongside a swathe of large developments in the village, including an ongoing application for 200 homes off Hobbyhorse Lane, which has raised similar concern about landfill.

Land has also been cleared for a huge industrial warehouse with 830 parking spaces.

Villagers echoed concerns that the Harwell Road homes could pose health risks and an unpleasant smell.

Sutton Courtenay resident Callum Mackenzie said: "It's extraordinary that anybody should consider building houses next to a landfill site. There are a whole string of concerns."

He hoped that the village's neighbourhood plan, which is in early stages, would protect against speculative development.

Campaign group Sutton Courtenay Action has forged a forum with Sutton Courtenay Parish Council, the neighbourhood plan committee and the district council in response to a potential population surge.

Sutton Courtenay Action member Anne Morgan-Smith said she was 'encouraged' by the partnership, adding: "We welcome the opportunity to discuss the challenges our village is facing."