A HIGH-level meeting between university and council chiefs has been demanded by councillors charged with sorting out the Castle Mill problem.

Negotiations between officers at Oxford City Council and staff at Oxford University are ongoing after protests that the taller blocks amongst the half-completed student accommodation buildings in Roger Dudman Way are ruining the Port Meadow skyline.

Last night the council’s west area planning committee unanimously supported a resolution which, among other things, called for a meeting between the university’s vice-chancellor and the council’s leadership to broker an agreement.

It was watched by dozens of protesters, many of whom wore masks of heritage officer Nick Worlledge. His advice that the original design of the buildings would harm Oxford’s “fragile” skyline and erode the heritage views from Port Meadow was not passed to councillors because an adjustment was made to the roofline.

The west area committee originally approved the plans in February 2012, before the council admitted a year later it should go back to the university to try to get the already-built blocks lowered by two storeys.

Two months ago, Oxford City Council gave the west area committee the task of receiving updates from officers on negotiations with the university over the height of the buildings.

At the meeting, councillors were annoyed when they were told by planning officers there had been no real progress in coming to an agreement with the university over potentially lowering the height of the buildings. Some estimates have put the cost at several million pounds.

Liberal Democrat councillor John Goddard labelled the situation a “massive collective failure” and proposed a motion calling on council leader Bob Price and university chiefs to meet to strike a deal on lowering the height of the buildings. He said: “This needs a high-level, non-planning-law-backed discussion.”

Mr Price, who was at the meeting as a substitute for fellow Labour councillor Bev Clack, said: “I’ve made it clear that I’m happy to meet with them on behalf of the council whenever they feel it is appropriate.

“That offer has been made and we are awaiting their response.”

Green councillor Elise Benjamin said it was “a shame” that university representatives, who were in the audience, didn’t take part in the meeting.

She said: “I think it would be a sign of goodwill at least if one or two of them would agree to meet some of the residents after the meeting.”

During and before the meeting, concerns were raised by several protesters, including Walton Manor resident and former Oxford Mail journalist Nicola Moeran.

She said: “We are all, literally without exception, aghast at what this council has allowed to happen to our cherished Port Meadow.

“For many of Oxford’s citizens, students and visitors, Port Meadow is the city’s greatest natural treasure, and something we all thought was safe in Oxford City Council’s care.”

Councillors also called on head of planning Michael Crofton-Briggs to make a more detailed report to the committee’s next meeting on May 8.