THE company behind controversial plans to develop Jericho Boatyard and a £100m regeneration of Frideswide Square has gone into administration.

News that Castlemore Securities — the owner of Spring Residential — has become the latest major developer to collapse has given new hope to campaigners wishing to buy the boatyard site for the local community.

The Jericho Living Heritage Trust today confirmed it has already opened discussions with the administrator about the future of the boatyard site, with the trust hopeful the recession has provided a unique opportunity to save the boatyard for the city.

But Spring’s demise will also be viewed as a setback to major plans to create a new western gateway to Oxford, in what promised to be one of the biggest regeneration projects in the city’s recent history.

Last year Spring announced a partnership with Christ Church to bring about the transformation of the area around Frideswide Square, with a mix of hotels, shops, restaurants and housing.

The scheme was to have involved redesigning the much- criticised square, regarded as one of the city’s worst bottlenecks.

It would also have seen the redevelopment of the site between Hythe Bridge Street and Park End Street, and land stretching down to the River Hotel, next to the Thames on Botley Road.

Christ Church said it was still trying to clarify its position, following the announcement that Spring Residential’s parent company Castlemore Securities had been placed in administration. But the college said it had no intention of abandoning its long-term plans to transform the area outside Oxford’s railway station.

PricewaterhouseCoopers was appointed administrator of Castlemore Securities.

Spring’s planning application to build 54 flats at the former Castle Mill Boatyard sparked one of the biggest protest campaigns seen in Oxford for years, with the boatyard campaign supported by Oxford author Philip Pullman and Inspector Morse actor Kevin Whately. Spring acquired the site from British Waterways for £4m.

But in October a planning inspector ruled that the company’s building plans could not go ahead. Residents immediately announced an interest in buying the site and they now believe the way may have been cleared.

Peter Strong, chairman of the heritage trust, said: “We are uniquely placed to acquire the site for the community and to take advantage of these extraordinary times. We have been working extremely hard on this project, raising necessary finances and listening to the various groups involved.”

The group’s founding patron, Sir Christopher Ball, said: “This may prove a shot in the arm for the Jericho project. One way or another we are determined to acquire the site and develop it appropriately to meet all the community’s needs.”

Inspector Morse author, Colin Dexter, also a patron of the trust, said: “We are all behind this tremendous effort to acquire the old boatyard for the community.”

Spring’s chief executive Andrew Wilkins had earlier told The Oxford Times that he had expected work to start on the Frideswide Square project in 2011.

Plans for a hotel and two new roundabouts were being drawn up, along with plans to refurbish the buildings opposite the railway station.

Christ Church treasurer James Lawrie said: “We were concerned to read the news. At the moment we are not entirely clear what the implications of this announcement are.

“But Christ Church’s strategy remains what it has always been, and that is to work with others towards achieving the best plan for the whole of the West End.”

He said talks were ongoing with the county council, with the development of Frideswide Square key to County Hall’s Transform Oxford initiative to pedestrianise much of the city centre.

Mark Batten, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and joint administrator, said: “Castlemore Securities is a business with significant property assets and it is currently our intention to continue to trade parts of the business as we seek a buyer.”