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Last Updated: Monday, 8 August 2005, 17:15 GMT 18:15 UK
Historic boatyard wins reprieve
Boats on the Oxford Canal (pic courtesy of freefoto.com)
Protestors say 120 boating families rely on the yard's services
An historic boatyard under threat from developers has won a temporary reprieve after a government planning inspector rejected a scheme to build flats there.

Oxford's Castle Mill boatyard, which inspired author Phillip Pullman, was to be converted into 46 flats.

But on Monday the inspector ruled the plans by owners British Waterways and Bellway Homes should not go ahead.

Last week, protestors angry over the plans barricaded themselves into the 160-year-old Jericho boatyard.

We are disappointed British Waterways plan to come back but determined we will keep fighting these plans
Protestor John Keyes
They gave Monday's decision a cautious welcome.

John Keyes, 49, a former city engineer who now runs a boat repairs workshop at Castle Mill boatyard, said: "It's still too early to open the champagne but this is a significant step.

"This boatyard is an essential facility for 120 boating families living up and down the river and the inspector's report recognises that.

"We are disappointed British Waterways plan to come back but determined we will keep fighting these plans."

The protestors want to see the site remain as a working yard, with houses for short-term let for boat owners, a cafe and launderette.

They also want to transform the Victorian iron forge on the site into a museum.

Resubmitted proposals

But British Waterways said it would resubmit its development plans.

Spokesman Murray Geddes said: "We are disappointed with the decision.

"However the boatyard has been identified for development and we will be giving the planning inspectorate's objections very careful consideration in order to resubmit our proposals in the near future."

In Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, the yard is home to the Gyptians, a group of boat people who befriend Lyra Belacqua, the main character in the books.

Protesters fight to save boatyard
02 Aug 05 |  Oxfordshire

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