DEVELOPERS behind a controversial new block of student flats yesterday claimed it would improve views of the area for train passsengers.

An inquiry into plans to build 74 flats in Mill Street, West Oxford, opened at St Aldate’s Chambers yesterday.

The inspector heard claims the flats – which could house students as young as 16 – would “unbalance” the community.

Residents said the three-storey building behind terraced homes would make life intolerable as more students came to the area.

But developers said the plan was vital to get students out of houses.

Oxford City Council gave permission for 55 flats in two storeys on the same site but then last year refused a further plan for three storeys, leading to the appeal.

It comes after plans for 100 flats in Mill Street’s Innovation House offices were turned down last month.

Residents said the 2010 opening of the street’s Bellerbys College – which could use the 74 flats – had disrupted their lives.

Susanna Pressel, a city council member for Jericho And Osney, told the inquiry: “This is a suburban community.

“A lot of people are related to one another and it gives it a villagey feel.”

She said she was not “anti- student” but said: “It really would unbalance this little community quite unacceptably.”

Teenagers would have nowhere to go and would make a noise in communal areas between houses and the flats, she said.

Fellow councillor Tony Brett said the “jarring and oppressive” plan would “just push it to the intolerable level”.

Mill Street resident Brendan Carter said: “I don’t want to be in bed and listening to students all night.”

Felicity Wenden said Bellerbys students – who come from abroad to prepare for university – were “in their own world”.

She said: “It is quite unpleasant to have people smoking and spitting outside your window.”

Dr Rosemary Preston said: “The difference this proposal is going to make is to make it 24 hours a day.”

But Nick Lyzba, of JPPC Chartered Town Planners, said the council had shown no evidence of problems with students’ behaviour.

Extra trees would screen the flats, to be angled so as to overlook homes less, he said, and the development would have a warden.

The plan met the council’s fundamental policy for students to live in purpose built flats and not houses, he added.

No parking would be provided and students would not be allowed to get permits for nearby streets.

The firm’s Andrew Eaton said the houses – 33 metres from the flats – already back on to a railway line and the plan would cut noise and fumes. He said: “This is not the best introduction to Oxford. It is the backside of houses.”