A FLEDGLING Oxford Tower Block Leaseholders Association is preparing a 30-page response to the city council's plans to charge households £50,000 in refurbishment bills.

About 30 people attended a meeting in the Town Hall to formalise their plans to contest the cost ahead of the consultation's close on February 8.

Work on Evenlode Tower is due to begin in earnest in April, part of a £20m refurbishment in which the towers' 51 leaseholders have been asked to pay their share.

The group has now enlisted the help of a barrister, Matthew Fraser of London-based firm Landmark Chambers, to take on their case when it goes to tribunal later this year.

Addressing the meeting on Tuesday (2/2), Mr Fraser said: "I am very grateful to have been invited and to give you a few initial pointers.We have a deadline of February 8 to submit our final written observations. Your observations are comprehensive, impressive and cover significant detail."

He explained to residents the tribunal at the Property Chamber would establish whether service charges were recoverable by the council based on their leases, and secondly whether it was 'reasonable' for the council to do that. No date has yet been set for the tribunal.

New Leaseholder's Association chairman Stefan Piechnik said after the meeting: "Matthew was pretty optimistic. He is very young so this could make or break his career; we hope it will make it. He has offered several ways to approach the problem and I think it was very positive.

"We are waiting for legal counsel and will then change our observations according to their advice. Based on Oxford City Council's reply we will see where we stand."

Those present at the meeting agreed to pitch in to pay their share of Mr Fraser's fees, which amounted to about £200 per household.

Hockmore Tower resident Jackie Stocker said: "I thought it was a very successful meeting. Everyone was really impressed with our barrister.

"It's going to be expensive but it depends how far people want to take this. A lot of people said they would pay £10,000 or £20,000, but a lot couldn't afford a penny.

"There have been shortcomings in what Oxford City Council has disclosed to us. It is a very complex case but the way they have handled it is out of order. Until January we didn't know the cost involved; they had eight years to decide this and we have had one month to respond."