A COURT showdown between leaseholders at Oxford's five towers and Oxford City Council is at last on the horizon after nine months of angst.

Fifty-one households are set to challenge bills of about £50,000 charged to them for repairs to Windrush, Evenlode, Hockmore, Plowman and Foresters Towers.

The council applied to the property courts for a determination this week.

Meanwhile, the group believe they now have a new string to their bow: the unexpectedly industrial style of work inside the flats, which they say was designed by "complete idiots".

Darren Hazell, chairman of the newly-formed Oxford Tower Leaseholders Association, said the completed interiors at Evenlode Tower looked "absolutely appalling".

He said: "The sprinkler and extraction system look really industrial and no attention has been paid to the aesthetics."

Inside the flats in Evenlode, a hefty six-inch-wide box encases the sprinkler system all across the living room ceiling while a very large extractor box sits in the kitchen.

Mr Hazell, who rents out his flat in Windrush Tower, said: "Suddenly there's a big pipe right down the middle of your living room.

"We saw the product before but weren't aware they were going to be installing them the way they did. It's work I would class as commercial rather than residential.

"From a saleability point of view it's not going to be nice to look at, therefore it's going to down-value the flat."

Last December leaseholders in the towers learned they would face a hefty bill for their part in the council's £20m refurbishment project with contractors Willmott Dixon.

OTLA will represent the group in the upcoming tribunal, which the council applied for after sending out 'final letters of demand' to those involved about 30 days ago.

In a letter to councillors sent out yesterday morning, landlord services manager Bill Graves confirmed an application to the Property Chamber has now been made.

Mr Hazell said the state of the repair would "100 per cent" form part of their argument in court. He added: "Why should we pay for that?

"We are going to bring the lack of quality or workmanship up during the tribunal. It's downright cheap and very rude for them to ask for any money."

Evenlode Tower leaseholder Leila Stonehouse, 82, purchased her flat with brother Walter 27 years ago for £15,554 and has been told she will need to pay £50,249.

She said: "We don't know what's going on. I will have to get used to the look. There's nothing I can do about it so you might as well laugh as cry."

Oxford City Council failed to respond to requests for comment before going to print.

Councillor Mike Rowley, the board member for housing, said: "We want to reassure leaseholders that we do not intend to take enforcement action in respect of any unpaid bills until the First Tier Tribunal has ruled on the matter."