CAMPAIGNERS have spurned suggestions that the controversial Castle Mill flats could be demolished in 30 years’ time.

Oxford University confirmed it was considering the proposal, put forward by heritage group the Oxford Preservation Trust.

The trust said the student flats next to Port Meadow – widely criticised for spoiling views of the city’s dreaming spires – were “not designed to last”.

Trust director Debbie Dance said that after Congregation – the university’s parliament – rejected demands to reduce the height of the flats, instead a long-term agreement for their demolition would be a “pragmatic solution” to the contentious issue.

The university has already said it will soften the appearance of the £24m blocks by repainting them, changing their cladding and planting trees.

But campaigners from the Save Port Meadow group claimed that delaying more radical action posed the risk that nothing would be done to tackle the issue.

Spokeswoman Nicky Moeran said: “If meaningful mitigation is postponed until some notional point, many decades in the future, there is no certainty it will happen.”

She added: “Even if it does, it will not be in the lifetime of countless people whose enjoyment of Port Meadow has been destroyed by these flats.”

And historian Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, who earlier this year led a rebellion of university dons in Congregation, added: “It’s not acceptable until it is clear there is no other planning alternative.”

The Castle Mill flats were granted planning permission by Oxford City Council in 2012, but have been the subject of a bitter row ever since.

Campaigners mounted a High Court challenge against them in 2013, seeking a judicial review of the planning process.

But Mr Justice Lewis said a judicial review was unnecessary, because the university had agreed to carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the scheme retrospectively.

When it was delivered, the EIA offered three options for reducing the visual impact of the flats.

It prompted a rebellion of by dons, who unsuccessfully brought a motion to Congregation backing the third and most expensive option, removing the top floors of the blocks.

Ms Dance said the trust was instead seeking an agreement that would see the site redeveloped in 25 to 30 years’ time, near the estimated end of the buildings’ lifespan.

She said: “We need to know that in the future, when that site comes to be redeveloped, it will be done more sensitively and this is a way to do that.

“Oxford has been here for a long time and will see a lot more change. There is a lot of work to do and we need a pragmatic solution.”

The university is due to consult people after the summer on its favoured measures to lessen the flats’ impact.