A PROMINENT environmental campaigner has hit out against building homes on greenbelt land as Oxford City Council reveals plans for 3,000 new properties on fields near the science park.

As previously reported, the project - dubbed South Oxfordshire Science Village - would see thousands of homes, new schools and a new park and ride created off Grenoble Road.

It has been met with criticism from campaigners and now the author and political journalist George Monbiot has said there is 'no need' to build on greenbelt land, saying such green spaces are vital for cities to function properly.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail, he said: "[Greenbelts] ensure that local shops are viable, local schools are viable, local health centres are viable. It ensures that people don't have to travel far to find work or to shop or go to school.

The Guardian columnist, who lives in Rose Hill, added: "If you have a very sprawling city, a Los Angeles-type city or even worse Phoenix, Arizona or Adelaide in Australia which sprawls over vast areas of land, it's very hard to provide those cities with services. You end up with people making massive car journeys.”

The council has said the project will help tackle the housing crisis by producing affordable homes. At least 35 per cent of the 3,000 homes must be used for social rent properties, 40 per cent must be affordable rent and 25 per cent must be available for low-cost home ownership, such as shared ownership.

City councillor Alex Hollingsworth, cabinet member for planning and housing delivery, said: "It’s been a longstanding ambition of the city council to develop its land at Grenoble Road, to provide some of the homes needed to meet demand for affordable housing.

“The council’s partnership with Magdalen College and Thames Water, the other landowners in the area, allows that ambition to be realised.

“The allocation of this site for just under 3,000 homes includes a requirement that half are in affordable tenures – including council homes, sub-market affordable rent and shared ownership homes."

But Mr Monbiot has cast doubt over over these ambitions, warning that local authorities are 'notoriously bad' at ensuring developers stick to social housing quotas.

He said: “The big question is whether they’ll stick to that because very often that's what gets cut and they make promises saying that they will have a certain proportion for social rent and then because that's the least profitable part of the development that gets whittled away and whittled away and local authorities are notoriously bad at ensuring that developers stick to that.”

The Oxford-based writer continued: “We definitely need to build more social housing. But we don't need just to build blindly in the way that we're currently doing, and in a way that's led by the demands of the big property developers rather than by the demands of people who most need housing.”

The site off Grenoble Road is owned by Oxford City Council, Thames Water, and Magdalen College, but is on land under the administration of South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC).

The city council won its fight to include the area in its local plan last year. Ordinarily there are strict rules around building on greenbelt land but the authority managed to argue a case that it was needed for development to help meet its target of providing 11,000 new homes in the city by 2036,