AN APPEAL has gone out to dons from Oxford University’s vice-chancellor over a vote that could force changes to Castle Mill flats.

A binding motion will be considered by Congregation – the university’s “parliament”

– on Tuesday, which could force the university to reduce the flats’ height.

Supporters of the motion this week claimed it was “all to play for” while vicechancellor Professor Andrew Hamilton has warned that it would cost £30m.

Campaigners from the group Save Port Meadow have for two years called on the university to scale down the Roger Dudman Way flats, which they said blight views of Oxford’s skyline.

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Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the history of the Church, put forward the motion to reduce their height in December.

Prof MacCulloch said: “It is all to play for. I believe we need to hear the voice of the real university, honestly expressed.”

Oxford Mail:

 Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch

The university is now battling to defeat a revolt of heavyweight dons who have rallied behind him.

The motion put forward by Prof MacCulloch calls for the removal of a floor from six of the eight buildings.

It is backed by university professors, who say that a failure to act will inflict “serious damage” on the university’s reputation and to Oxford’s historic skyline.

In an appeal to Congregation, Prof Hamilton said: “The £30m is an estimate but that, of course, means the final figure could be considerably higher. The idea that there is a spare £30m down the back of the university sofa is wishful thinking.

“The building would have to be emptied for at least a year; students and young families would lose their homes and considerable pressure would be added to the already crowded rental market.

“No university, not even one as beautiful as Oxford, should put buildings before its students.”

The £30m figure is based on the loss of rent from 38 rooms and the price of providing alternative accommodation for displaced students.

But it was dismissed by Prof MacCulloch as a “back of an envelope figure“ based on “substantial double counting.”

He said the height reduction could be undertaken in phases to reduce costs and avoid students having to move out of the Castle Mill blocks, built two years ago at a cost of £24m. The university has claimed the loss of the flats would affect Oxford’s housing market and favours the cheapest of three options, costing £6m, which would involve screening the student flats with trees and new cladding.

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