For years, Headington residents have battled for improvements to be made to a crumbling and derelict house.

So when builders appeared at 29 Old High Street, on Thursday, there was a collective intake of breath as it looked like work was beginning.

But the “improvements”, which so far consist of a 5ft breeze-block wall, have sparked a fresh row.

Headington city councillor David Rundle said: “We have had a lot of residents contacting us about this. People are angry.

“What has happened is that a house which desperately needed improvements is now even more of an eyesore.”

Developer Martin Young, from Headington Hill, bought the 19th century house in 1978.

It has stood empty for the past five years and has been the subject of planning applications, enforcement orders, appeals and court actions.

Mr Young was issued with an enforcement order by Oxford City Council telling him to improve and tidy up the house by March 12.

Mr Rundle said: “This whole situation could have been sorted out in a much quicker, cheaper and more amicable way, if there had been good will.”

Mr Young wants to knock down the house and build five new homes in its place, but was refused planning permission last December.

He has now lodged an appeal with the Government’s Planning Inspectorate.

Friends of Old Headington chairman Sarah King said: “I think he’s just being difficult, he’s playing a game. The Friends would just like to see the place being put in good order and sold as a family house. It’s a perfectly-good house.

“It’s the first house you see when you come into the conservation area and this is not what we want to see.”

Mr Young said he was carrying out the work to comply with the council order.

He said: “I thought this would make a few people a bit happier.

“I had a bit of money, so I thought I would now do something and repair the wall.

“Originally the job was going to cost a reasonable price, but then I was told the job was more complicated than we had previously thought.

“So I had to do the repairs in a way that wasn’t going through the roof money-wise.”

He added: “I thought any wall was better than no wall, providing security and satisfying the council.”

Mr Young said the house’s roof and rear fencing would also be repaired soon.

Council spokesman Chris Lee said officers would investigate whether the building materials being used were permitted in a conservation area.

He said: “We have been informed of this building work. We will now investigate the site and decide what action, if any, needs to be taken.”