WINCHESTER College and the firm behind the Barton Farm scheme are locked in a land dispute which could further delay the 2,000-home estate and open the door to unwanted development, the Chronicle has learnt.

Independent experts have been brought in to set the price of college-owned fields to be sold for the project in north Winchester.

Cala Homes believes the college is asking too much for the first chunk of land, providing 200 homes.

But key players have not been told when the ruling is coming, adding to uncertainty over when construction will begin.

Meanwhile, civic chiefs have been warned that delay to the scheme could affect Winchester's housing land supply, allowing developers to argue that plans which may otherwise have been rejected are needed to make up the numbers.

Steven Little, bursar of Winchester College, said of the experts' ruling: "They're writing their conclusions as we speak. They haven't given us a date for it.

"Given the nature of the site, the sensitivity of it, they need to take their time to get to the right answer."

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As reported by the Chronicle last week, housebuilding has already been pushed back to next month amid what Cala's development director, Rob Westwood, described as a "frustrating" dialogue with councils.

The developer may have to reassess its financial calculations if the price is set too high, the Chronicle understands, raising the prospect of further delays.

Plans for 350 houses in Pitt Vale (above), a stone's throw from 200 homes being built at Pitt Manor, are unpopular with residents and councillors and are expected to be rejected.

But property insiders expect developer Linden Homes to win an appeal to the national planning inspector by arguing the council isn't hitting its targets.

A senior industry source, who asked not to be named, said Winchester City Council had been "blasé" about the threat of delays.

"They're all saying 'we've got Barton Farm on the go'," he said. "They're all banging the drum and actually it's far from it.

"The people in the know are saying their supply is short because they're in cloud cuckoo land if they think Barton Farm is going to be delivering units by the end of next year.

"They assume they issue planning and then there's a big commencement on site, but with these big major development areas, very often there's a bit of a complex price negotiation to take place."

Other landowners and developers are keeping a close eye on the Pitt Vale scheme, he added, warning of a raft of planning applications being submitted if the Government rules in Linden's favour.

"As soon as you get developers like that, thinking they've got no five-year land supply, it's like being on the ropes. You get absolutely battered and you've got no way of controlling your land supply - that's what Winchester's done."

The council's latest figures, published in December, estimate the first 120 homes on Barton Farm will be provided in 2016/17, with 200 more per year until the final batch of 80 in 2027.

Steve Opacic (below), the council's head of strategic planning, said: "It's just one part of the overall five-year land supply. If that went down - it's not going to happen - but it's not likely to mean we haven't got a five-year housing supply anymore."

Hampshire Chronicle:

Cala Homes said in a statement: “Although we cannot comment on individual negotiations, the development of a new community like Barton Farm inevitably takes a huge amount of planning but we are gearing up to start on site in early Autumn and delighted to be approaching the beginning of the construction stage for this first phase of new homes. With the completion of electrical works, highways work is also set to restart in early Autumn, beginning with the installation of new traffic signals."