There has been a huge public response to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the Castle Mill student flats, with hundreds taking time to give their views.

Three options to mitigate the impact of the Roger Dudman Way buildings on views have been put forward, and campaigners from the Save Port Meadow action group are already claiming that more than 95 per cent of the responses back the most dramatic proposed change, Option 3.

Option 3 would involve stripping six of the eight buildings of their top floors and lowering their roofs.
Among those who have given their support to this solution are a number of senior university figures, who have broken ranks to criticise the flats.

They include the principal of Jesus College Lord John Krebs, former master of Balliol College Dr Andrew Graham, and director emeritus of the Ashmolean Museum, Professor Christopher Brown CBE.
In his comments on the EIA, Lord Krebs told the city council: “The buildings are a disgrace and the university should act in a socially responsible way by reducing their height. Option 3 is the only acceptable form of mitigation.”

Looking down the myriad of letters the council has received on the matter, one can even find a response from Private Eye’s “Piloti”, the historian Gavin Stamp, who writes the Nooks and Corners column.

He wrote: “The offending and offensive buildings overlooking Port Meadow are up for remedial measures.
“Given the damage their height does to the character of Port Meadow, Options 1 and 2 are insufficient. Option 3 must be pursued: the buildings must be lowered in height.”

Against this backdrop and with the consultation now finished, there is ever-growing reason to bring the matter before the university’s Congregation. A small number of senior figures have commented on the affair, but in February we may finally hear what the wider university community thinks.

Campaigners have lauded it as a fresh opportunity to have the height of the flats reduced.

But the university has in past statements said it will not be suggesting Option 3 when it appears before Oxford City Council again next year, but a motion from the Congregation would be binding. At the moment the university insists that its preferred solution is Option 1, a change of colour and tree-screening for the flats.

The campaigner-preferred Option 3 will result in a bill of £30m, in no small part due to a loss in rent running to millions of pounds.
This is significantly more than the £6m estimated cost of Option 1.

Yet in the face of such a public outcry — there have now been more than 900 responses to the EIA consultation — there will be many who will ask whether the university should now change course.
A new approach, for the new year?