The failure to build homes in Oxford's Green Belt has been singled out in a high-level Government report as the reason for high house prices and a lack of space in the city.

The Barker Report, an independent review of England's planning system commissioned by Chancellor Gordon Brown and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, has challenged the role of so-called 'green lungs' around urban areas.

But the explicit reference to Oxford in the report is sure to increase already high-running tensions between the city and county councils which have repeatedly clashed over the issue of housebuilding.

In her report, Kate Barker, a member of the Housing Corporation, said large numbers of commuters were "jumping" the Green Belt to commute to work from their homes outside the city.

Population growth in surrounding towns like Didcot has exploded from 16,000 in 1991 to 23,500 in 2001, the report said.

The report also stated that Oxford had 27,000 more jobs than residents and added that "further research shows that Oxford is one of the worst cities in the UK for traffic gridlock and suggests the impact on the economy of increasing congestion will be increased by proposed housing developments at Didcot".

Oxford City Council has been repeatedly thwarted in its attempts to build a so-called urban extension, with colleagues at County Hall refusing to entertain the idea or even conduct a review of the Green Belt.

Oxford city councillor and social housing champion Ed Turner said: "The report has hit the nail on the head as far as problems with the Green Belt are concerned it is strangling the city's growth.

"This gives hope to people in housing need in Oxford and shows we are winning the argument against the nimbys."

Andy Boddington, the Oxfordshire spokesman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "Barker, like Oxford City Council, seems obsessed by Oxford as a brand name not a city at the heart of a dynamic region."

Oxfordshire County Council leader Keith Mitchell added: "It is hardly surprising that Kate Barker recites the arguments for higher house building in places like Oxford.

"Firstly, she is an economist and does not have to balance economic and environmental considerations as we do.

"Secondly, it should not come as a great surprise she writes what her boss, Gordon Brown, wants to read."