A public inquiry has begun into plans to build 2,000 new homes at farmland on the northern edge of Winchester.
Developer Cala Homes has been trying to build on the 230-acre site - known as Barton Farm - since the late 1990s.
City councillors have voted against the plans and about 100 people held a protest outside the Guildhall as the inquiry got under way.
Cala Homes say the plan is the most sustainable solution to Winchester's need for more houses.
However, opponents argue the city's roads, schools and services could not cope with development on such a scale.
Gavin Blackman, of Save Barton Farm campaign, said: "There are numerous other sites - brownfield sites, windfall sites, MoD sites - that haven't come on stream yet.
"All we're saying is this is a short-sighted, short-term solution to housing numbers that were imposed a number of years ago."
Mike Emett, of Cala Homes, said: "It's extremely unpopular with a small section of local people. I wouldn't agree that it's unpopular across the board with the community as a whole.
"There are 3,000 plus people on the housing waiting list and I'm sure all of those people and many others will welcome the development we're proposing at Barton Farm."
The government is planning to scrap the regional planning strategies which force specific house building targets on local authorities.
Cala Homes went to the High Court to seek a ruling that would prevent the government's intention from influencing the inquiry, but it failed.
The inquiry is set to run for eight days.