COUNCIL bosses have snubbed plans for the first ‘smart homes’ in Oxford and recommended they be rejected.

The 70 low-cost apartments in William Morris Close, Cowley, would be built on a former sports ground that is now privately owned and sold for upwards of £160,000 each.

They are targeted at key workers and first-time buyers, and are due to be considered by Oxford City Council's east area planning committee tonight.

But planning officers say the scheme should be refused by councillors because the land is earmarked as 'open space' in the city's Local Plan.

Developers behind the plan argue the landowner has said the site will not be opened until it is developed and that their proposals will retain green space for sports.

Patrick McDonald, of Openwell, said: "Recommending refusal of this scheme just tells teachers, nurses or young academics that Oxford doesn’t want them.

"That’s mad. If democracy is worth its salt then councillors will surely go against this recommendation and permit something healthy, needed and right: Affordable housing for key workers.

"If they don’t, then we really have to question Oxford City’s ability to solve its own problems."

Analysis by the Oxford Mail shows opinion among people who responded to the plans was evenly split. Of 113 households that commented, 57 objected and 56 were in favour – however some of the latter were from outside Oxfordshire.

Emma Parker, of Edgeway Road, wrote: "There is not enough affordable housing in Oxford, and this is one step towards helping young professionals like myself and my husband to get on the housing ladder.

"I work for the NHS so fully support this move. I hear very regularly of my colleagues considering moving away from Oxford because we cannot afford to keep living here."

But Judith Harley, of the Old Temple Cowley Resident's Association, said the group was 'strongly' opposed.

She told the council: "This is not a 'redundant sports field and car park'. It would still be available for formal and informal recreation had the present owner not fenced it off and rendered it publicly unusable.

"There are serious concerns about problems with traffic, access, and parking for this proposal, as well as it constituting overdevelopment of the site, but the main concern is about potential loss of protected open space.

"Although there is considerable unmet housing need within Oxford, this cannot override all other considerations."

Meanwhile, other groups including Oxford Civic Society and Oxfordshire Community Foundation have urged city councillors to consider the plans.

Sports England said the site should be retained as open space unless an alternative is found.

A city council spokesman said: "Members can after considering the report and any other representations that are made on the night take a different view to officers.

"It is inappropriate to speculate at this stage."

The committee meet tonight at 6pm in Oxford Town Hall.