OXFORD’S tower blocks are to get an £8m refurbishment.

Oxford City Council is borrowing the money to fund the regeneration scheme for its five “vertical villages”.

It will be part of a £77m investment to help combat Oxford’s chronic housing shortage, with plans to build more than 500 new homes.

The five tower blocks, dating from the mid-1960s, are sited in Wood Farm, Northway and Cowley, plus two in Blackbird Leys. They contain 348 flats in total.

One block will be refurbished each year, with the project due to start next year.

Work will include repairs to the external fabric, replacement windows and upgrading wall panels to improve energy efficiency.

In recent years the council has considered demolishing them.

But Dr Joe McManners, city council board member for housing, said: “We intend to make them attractive places where people can live with a decent quality of life.

“The housing need in Oxford is so acute that we need to make sure that we are getting the best out of our accommodation.”

He said the council had been left with the choice of leaving the tower blocks as they are, before eventual demolition, or borrowing millions to bring them up to standard.

Ultimately the shortage of land and the cost of new development had settled the issue, he added.

Town Hall spokesman Louisa Dean said the £8m refurbishment was in addition to ongoing work to flats to meet the Decent Homes standard.

She said: “The work will help to reduce residents’ energy bills and our carbon footprint. Work in future years will include repairs and improvements to the internal communal areas and new heating systems.

“The council will shortly be consulting tenants and residents.”

Residents will not need to move out of their flats during work. The bulk of people living in the tower blocks are council tenants, with “a significant minority” of private owners.

Ade Adeniran, who lives in Evenlode Tower in Blackbird Leys, said: “It has been like this for years so it could probably do with a spruce-up.”

Windrush Tower resident Fatima Houdi said: “I’m pleased.”

But Justin White, who lives in Windrush Tower, said: “They need to come down, to be honest. ”

The council is having to borrow £200m to gain control of its own council housing stock, in a one-off payment to the Government. This will allow it to keep the rent it collects, instead of having to hand over a chunk to Whitehall each year.

The council says it plans to find money for the refurbishment and new housing by extending the period of repayment of the loans.

The first wave of construction will see 117 council homes built – including ones in Wood Farm and Blackbird Leys. A further 400 affordable homes, likely to form part of the proposed Barton West development, will follow over the next decade.