HOW a the route of a new £3bn road – which could plough through a 10-mile stretch of the Oxford green belt – might be chosen has been criticised as undemocratic.

Residents, councillors and 21 Oxfordshire parish councils have said they want be given the chance to give their views over three options which could be picked for the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway.

Highways England said it is too early into work to know whether the options are viable, but that views will be welcomed later.

The Expressway Action Group (EAG) wants a public consultation to be held over the plans now.

It worries the process might end with an option to build on the Green Belt south of Oxford being picked.

EAG coordinator, Peter Rutt, said: “We are extremely concerned that more than 10 miles of unspoilt countryside, green belt and irreplaceable wildlife havens would be destroyed by this new expressway – and all without any proper consultation or democratic mandate.

“Oxfordshire deserves to be consulted on a project which would massively affect its residents’ quality of living.

"Without a full public inquiry to examine the environmental, housing and amenity impact of each Expressway route, we could end up with the worst of all outcomes.

"The thousands of Oxfordshire residents impacted by these huge changes deserve to have their voices heard.”

The National Infrastructure Commission and Highways England are currently looking at where the dual carriageway could be built.

The first option would upgrade the A34 and junction nine of the M40 and then run past Bicester towards Milton Keynes.

The second would mean a new road, which would leave the A34 near Abingdon then run through 10 miles of the green belt south of Oxford.

The third option would mean a new road south of Oxford, running through Thame, Haddenham and Aylesbury.

An expressway is different to a motorway because it links two specific destinations.

A report last November found the expressway could reduce journey times between the M4 and M1 by 40 minutes.

Highways England spokesman, James Wright, said: “Better connecting Oxford and Cambridge will help ensure the continued success of the 'brain belt', bringing clear benefits to the region and the country as a whole.

“A high level case for the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway was published last November, when the government committed up to £27m to for further development.

"Since then, Highways England has continued to carry out a full analytical, evidence based review ahead of detailed design and analysis work.

“We had a positive, constructive meeting last Wednesday with the CPRE and other stakeholders and we are committed to full public consultation before a preferred route is announced so people can help shape the proposals."

But Liberal Democrat county councillor for Wheatley, Kirsten Johnson, urged a consultation to be started.

She said: “This is the most important infrastructure project for our region in a generation, and it is happening behind closed doors without any input from the residents it will affect most.

“People are just not aware of the huge and adverse impact the expressway would cause to our environment if a southern route is selected.

"We need to have an open debate on the merits of each route.”

Work on the road could begin as soon as 2020, or as late as 2025.