THE final battle to prevent a minitown of 750 homes being built on Reading's western fringes got under way today.

The showdown between Beyond Green Developments (formerly Blue Living) and West Berkshire Council started at Pincents Manor, Calcot.

The London-based developer is appealing against the council's decision to throw out its proposal for 750 homes, a school, library, recreation space and shops on Pincents Hill between Tilehurst and Calcot.

Beyond Green solicitor Rupert Warren said the proposal was a true exemplar of sustainable development in a town where there is high demand for new homes.

He added: "The promoters of the site are not volume house builders but are a group formed from professionals dedicated to making a radical change to the way much needed houses are delivered through the planning system."

The council is defending its reasons for refusal, which includes protecting the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which covers part of the site, and the green gap between Tilehurst and Theale.

But there is no long any dispute about the development's impact on already congested roads, because a highway improvement scheme has now been agreed with Beyond Green - although it may return to the drawing board if Ikea gets the green light to build a store and 1,287-space car park in Pincents Lane, Calcot.

Council solicitor Richard Ground said: "It is clearly in the countryside, outside the settlement boundaries. It has a direct and indirect effect on the AONB and would materially harm the landscape character of the area."

A long line of experts representing both sides, members of the Save Calcot residents action group, and Reading West MP Alok Sharma, will give evidence to the inquiry, which is expected to last until the middle of next week.