A 'SMALL town’ with more than 1,000 new homes could be created at Harwell Campus.

The science campus has unveiled details about its plans to develop more of the site for ‘affordable’ housing.

But concerns have been raised that ‘one of the largest’ schemes built inside an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) could set a ‘dangerous precedent’.

Along with the new homes, a primary school, neighbourhood centre, allotments and sports pitches would help to create a ‘work-live-play community.’

The homes would primarily be for some of the 20,000 people expected to be employed on the site to rent or buy with some potentially put on the open market.

Campus spokeswoman Lucy Pritchard said: “Young people at the start of their careers struggle to afford current house prices in Oxfordshire.

“Having homes on campus, a short walk from where thousands work today and many thousands more will work in the future, is a highly sustainable ‘live: work’ proposition.”

Many of the homes would be built on brownfield land, rather than develop more of the North Wessex Downs AONB.

But Rebecca Davies, the North Wessex Downs’ planning advisor, said its governing board had major concerns about the plans.

She said: “The land is earmarked for commercial use and that is what it should be used for.

“Our worry is that if houses are built now and then more offices or houses are needed in the future, the campus will creep ever closer to the border with the downs.

“It feels like starting something that you cannot control.

“We don’t believe the campus has demonstrated the need for people to live on-site when there are many accessible areas to live nearby.

“If the houses go into the private market then it doesn’t solve any of the issues with people travelling to and from the site.

“This is one of the largest proposed schemes in a AONB in the country and we feel it would have a detrimental impact.”

Harwell Campus submitted an outline of its plan to Vale of White Horse District Council last month with a view to submitting a full application at a later date.

The site in question, just to the north of the main campus, was included in the second part of Vale of White Horse District Council’s local plan, which covers proposed housing sites up to 2031 and is currently with the Government’s planning inspector for approval.

But similar schemes at Harwell had to be struck out of the first part of the council’s local plan on the advice of the inspector.

On that occasion evidence was presented that some 25 per cent of people working on the campus would consider living there but the inspector felt there was no evidence to indicate employers could not attract staff without housing.

Chris Broad, chairman of Chilton Parish Council, said: “We are not automatically against this but we don’t feel there’s justification for building houses to be sold on the open market.”