CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed a move by Oxford City Council to “flex its muscles” in the Castle Mill student flats row.

The authority has challenged Oxford University bosses to justify a refusal to remove a floor from the Roger Dudman Way buildings and reduce their impact on the city skyline.

It comes after pressure on the university intensified over Christmas, when dons pledged to take the issue to its “parliament”.

City council leader, Bob Price, said: “Other options are not explored and analysed in sufficient detail.

“The city council has, therefore, asked the university to provide the additional detail required.”

The fresh questions raised by the city council emerged in a report which raised concerns about the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the flats produced for the university.

The EIA sets out three options for reducing the impact of the flats, ranging from screening and cladding to removing a floor from six of the eight buildings.

On November the university said it favoured option one, costing £6m, which would screen the flats with trees and change their outside appearance.

It said the other options were disproportionately expensive.

But the city council’s own 86-page report - published by SLR Consulting - said the university’s conclusion had “omissions” and was “confusing”.

The authority has now asked the university to provide more robust evidence about the cost of each option and why options 2 and 3 were not explored fully.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the council report was “damning.”

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Oxford branch chairwoman Sietske Boeles said: “We are pleased that the council has flexed its muscles.”

But Oxford University spokesman Stephen Rouse said: “It is entirely misleading to characterise the report commissioned by the council in this way.

“It reaches no conclusions about the future of Castle Mill.

“But we note its call for broader consideration of the varied social and economic impacts of the options in the independent environmental statement which it reviews.”

On February 10 some 5,000 senior university figures will vote on a motion to reduce the height of the flats.

It was proposed by Diarmaid MacCulloch, the Professor of the History of the Church and television historian.

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