STUDENTS have begun moving into a controversial city flats development despite it not having full planning permission.

Postgraduate students have begun to arrive at Oxford University’s 312-room Castle Mill, on the edge of Port Meadow,.

It has been approved by Oxford City Council but final planning conditions around contamination have yet to be signed off.

Now the council said it is seeking legal advice on possible enforcement action at the Roger Dudman Way scheme in West Oxford.

Council spokesman Louisa Dean, said: “We have advised the university that it would be occupying the development at its own risk and that planning conditions have not been discharged.

“Our legal advice is that the discharge of planning conditions, where linked to occupation, creates an unusual circumstance where a further screening opinion is required.

“The council is also taking legal advice on the options for enforcement, although we know the courts are reluctant to support early action until all options have been explored.”

Oxfordshire director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England Helen Marshall said she was “appalled” students are moving in while “serious planning and environmental issues, including concerns over contamination, remain unresolved”.

She said: “The planning permission granted to the university expressly says that the buildings should not be occupied until a number of important planning conditions are met.”

The campaign group has launched a legal challenge over the scheme, to be heard in Birmingham next month.

The city council has also set up its own independent inquiry into how the application was dealt with. Some residents – who say the development will spoil views – accused council officers of working too closely with the university Mrs Marshall said: “If Oxford University is at all serious about seeking to resolve the disastrous impact of these buildings, it would have deferred student occupation.

“The city council should use its enforcement powers to prevent student occupation.”

University spokesman Matt Pickles, said the university had “addressed all contamination issues”.

The development is vital to help meet a target to have no more than 3,000 students in private rented homes, he said.