PLANS to reduce visual harm caused by the controversial Castle Mill flats have been described as a "big improvement" by a campaign group.

After almost four years of campaigning the Save Port Meadow group said designs to change the colour of the student accommodation and plant trees in front showed the public was "finally" being listened to.

Oxford University has now proposed an array of mitigating techniques, which could also include cladding and horizontal beams to "break up the vertical facade".

The proposals come after a report in 2014 found the flats had harmed the views across the city and of St Barnabas Church.

The £6m screening option, one of the three suggested by the report, was approved by councillors in February.

One alternative involved changing the roof and the other involved removing the top floor but these were both rejected.

City councillors for the area said the screening option was just "making the best of a bad job" and would not reverse the damage already.

But Save Port Meadow Campaign organiser Toby Porter said it was a "great step" for the campaign after a long battle.

He added: "Given the history of the campaign and the decisions made by the city council and university in the past it's great that the public are being listened to and we are now having a say.

"It feels like what we have been doing and saying as a campaign for nearly four years has been taken on board and these are big improvements."

The 47-year-old from Jericho said: "Port Meadow is for everyone in the city and people's experience of it has been ruined by the Castle Mill flats.

"We would have liked a storey to come off the buildings of course but given where we are this is a positive step."

A variety of different tones have been suggested as well as varying treatments to the roofs of the flats.

Horizontal beams said to "break up the vertical facade" and therefore make the buildings appear smaller have also been suggested.

Selected windows could also be fitted with automatic blinds activated at night-time and roof gables could be slatted or painted a darker colour.

Plants growing on the side of the buildings have also been suggested as a number of new looks were put forward.

County councillor for Wolvercote and Summertown Jean Fooks said it wouldn't make up for the "architectural mistake."

She said: "I think it will go some way to appeasing people and some of the changes will make a big difference.

"It's hopeful from what I have seen but it won't make for what was an architectural mistake in the first place."

City councillor James Fry said: "The reality is there is nothing that can be done really - it's just mitigation and making the best of a bad job."

Following feedback from residents revised designs will be put forward at a second public consultation later in the year.

To view the consultations boards go to