New housing estates are desperately needed to solve Oxford's chronic homes shortage, the Government's housing minister said on a visit to the city yesterday.

In a defiant message to opponents of two controversial housing developments, Caroline Flint compared Oxford's housing market to a pressure cooker, during a visit to a social housing development in Rose Hill.

She told the Oxford Mail that plans to build 4,000 homes south of Grenoble Road were essential to the future economic prosperity of the city.

And she reiterated the Government's support for eco-towns - including the planned 15,000-home development at Weston Otmoor, near Bicester.

She said: "There's only so much housing you can build in Oxford and given its historical architecture it can be pretty limiting.

"Oxford is a city that is bursting at the seams - it's like a pressure cooker.

"There are between 3,000 and 4,000 people on the city's social housing list and about the same in Cherwell. And that doesn't even cover people wanting to buy a home."

Mrs Flint said the Grenoble Road plans were "an important part of the solution to Oxford's housing needs".

But she added: "It still won't be enough for the needs of people living in Oxford and the surrounding area and we have to look at other options further afield."

Mrs Flint met city, district and parish councillors during her visit to Oxfordshire, as well as opponents of the proposed eco-town at Weston Otmoor.

Alan Cotton, a spokesman for Weston Front, the campaign group fighting the Weston Otmoor scheme, said flooding and transport worries made the proposal unsustainable.

He said: "The plans don't meet the objectives the Housing Minister has put forward for eco-towns."

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said: "We appreciated the chance to show the minister our support for the eco-town and to explain the need for more housing in the city both for rent and to buy at affordable rates."

He said of the Grenoble Road site: "It's low grade agricultural land with very little landscape value and it has a huge advantage in terms of access to current transport links and urban facilities."

Neighbouring Baldons Parish Council is vehemently opposed to the Grenoble Road scheme.

Chairman Dorothy Tonge said: "We think the development would have a major impact in terms of traffic and congestion and remove a significant stretch of green land that provides a breathing space for residents in Blackbird Leys."

Oxfordshire County Council also opposes moves to build on Green Belt land, preferring to build in market towns like Didcot, Bicester and Banbury, which all adjoin the A34 dual carriageway.

County Hall leader Keith Mitchell said: "It would be another Blackbird Leys, which is not the most successful housing estate.

"It's a long way from the city centre and it would create a car-bound community that's as likely to commute to Reading and London than Oxford.

"It would have little sense of community."