RESIDENTS have slammed "disastrous" proposals from a leading private school to build on the edge of South Downs National Park.

Eton College has been accused of "greed" over controversial plans to sell off land it owns in the countryside to make way for 3,000 homes.

The boarding school owns a 500-acre site in East Chiltington on the edge of the National Park.

Furious opponents have set up a protest group called Don't Urbanise The Downs, saying the plans would cram 6,000 new people into just 20 per cent of the parish.

They said the site would have a "deadly impact on the fragile ecology" of the National Park.

A spokesman said: "The identity and rural character of these communities will be permanently lost.

"With 3,000 new houses in the new town, East Chiltington would grow to 16 times its current number of homes and have more than 3,000 additional buildings crammed in to just 20 per cent of the parish.

"Existing infrastructure isn’t designed to support a new town.

"The new town residents would have to drive to reach work, shops and other facilities outside the area and that’s likely to result in over 3.5 million more car trips per year from the 6,000 additional new town residents and their approximately 4,200 additional cars.

"It’s the start of a slippery slope for the hamlet the building site is located in and for the South Downs National Park.

"The carbon footprint of a 3,000-house new town, in an isolated rural location, plus all its new infrastructure, would be significant.

"With limited job opportunities in the area, residents in the new town would need to drive to reach work, shops and other facilities meaning car usage could increase to 3.5 million additional car journeys each year, compared with the current parish total of 180,000 a year."

Opposition to the plans has gained support from Lewes MP Maria Caulfield.

She said: “Eton College’s proposal was completely unacceptable, so I offered to call the Secretary of State.”

Welbeck Land is working on the plans on behalf of Eton College.

A full public consultation is expected to take place this summer.

A spokesman on behalf of Eton College and Welbeck Land said: "Lewes District Council is currently consulting on the housing needs of East Sussex. North Barnes Farm provides a positive solution to the government requirement to provide new homes in Sussex and to boost the local rural economy.

"The plans being developed represent an innovative and sustainable response to the need for local housing.

"All development at scale in England is likely to be controversial but we are committed to engaging with our local partners, stakeholders and the community to develop our plans with the needs of the district and the wider area as a central focus.

"So far we have contacted local parish councils and we are hopeful that full engagement will begin shortly.

"We look forward to sharing our aspirations for a sustainable mixed-use community at North Barnes Farm and to hearing the ideas of local people.

"In the meantime we invite you to visit which we will be keeping updated."