A THREE-bedroom house in the new Barton Park development will cost at least £595,000, the Oxford Mail can reveal.

Starting prices for the first houses in the 885-home estate are being offered to prospective buyers at nearly 50 per cent more than the average house price in Oxford of £415,000.

The prices have sparked fears the new and existing Barton community could become divided due to first-time buyers, young families and key workers not being able to afford to buy the new properties.

Prices on the largest estate built in Oxford for a generation will also start at £299,950 for one-bedroom and £360,000 for two-bedroom apartments.

But while 40 per cent of the homes will be available for social rents, with 95 homes out of 237 in the first phase being made available for council tenants, concerns have also been raised that the market homes could be snapped up by landlords to lease at sky high rates.

The first of the homes currently under construction will go on sale in September, but house builders Hill have released a 'guide starting prices' for customers who registered an interest.

Mike Rowley, Oxford City Council's board member for housing, told the Mail he understood concerns about division between new homeowners and Barton residents.

The councillor for Barton said the market rates were 'extremely high' across Oxford but argued it is necessary to solve housing problems.

He added: "The housing market in Oxfordshire does not help people in Oxfordshire, that's a simple fact.

"The trade off we have to do in order to get social housing that local people desperately need is to allow developments to have some market housing alongside it."

Mr Rowley admitted a lot of market housing across the city was too expensive for people to afford but said the Government had not allowed councils to borrow cash to build social housing estates.

The council homes rented at social market rates are understood to cost about £450 a month.

It is understood the number of property owners who occupy their homes in the city stands at 47 per cent.

Sue Holden, who used to run Holden's Newsagents in Underhill Circus, Barton, said the prices of the homes would put off first-time buyers.

The Sandhills resident added: "It's not for local people. It's certainly not for your average workers.

"It's encouraging landlords to make another pretty penny.

"There is no incentive for young people to be able to get onto the property ladder.

"It's the young people I feel desperately sorry for."

Father-of-one James Buchanan of Barton Village Road, registered an interest in the properties to receive information about the development.

The 36-year-old health economist at Oxford University said he was not against the development, but added the prices did not bode well to attract families and first-time buyers to the area.

He added 'community spirit' would be affected if the homes were snapped up by landlords or bought by people commuting to London.

Mr Buchanan said: "They originally said it would sit perfectly with existing homes and amenities and integrate with the existing Barton estate. If the prices of the houses are £600,000... it's only attracting investors."

Oxford University Professor and housing expert Danny Dorling said the prices were set in line with market rates.

He added the city's property prices could be at its peak due to the rise in the number of empty homes.

A spokeswoman at Hill said: "It is more important than ever that housebuilders and the council work together to meet Oxford’s housing needs.

"Mosaics, as part of the wider Barton Park development with Oxford City Council and Grosvenor, will offer a range of apartments and houses for first-time buyers, families and downsizers alike – many of which will be available with Help to Buy.

"Great attention has been paid to the design and the quality of materials used. Each property is energy efficient and developed to a high specification, with stylish integrated kitchens, contemporary bathrooms and underfloor heating available."