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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2007, 21:24 GMT
Author's plea over historic yard
Phillip Pullman
Author Phillip Pullman said the boatyard was "vital" to Oxford
Author Phillip Pullman joined protesters outside a town hall as talks about the fate of an historic boatyard earmarked for development began.

The 160-year-old site at Castle Mill, in Jericho, on the canal in Oxford inspired the author in his trilogy, His Dark Materials.

Campaigners battled for years to preserve the boatyard but British Waterways sold it to developers.

Councillors will rule whether more than 50 flats should be built on the site.

The canal and the life on the boats is vital for the character of Oxford
Phillip Pullman, author

In His Dark Materials, the yard is home to the Gyptians, a group of boat people who befriend the heroine Lyra Belacqua.

At the weekend a boat at the site was renamed Lyra's Defiance after the character.

Mr Pullman's Oxford-based books inspired the film The Golden Compass - with several locations shot in the city.

Standing outside the town hall on Tuesday evening, he said: "This is a living place.

"It's a place where people bring their boats for repair and maintenance.

"It's important, it's vital for them and the canal and the life on the boats is vital for the character of Oxford."

In 2005, campaigners barricaded themselves into the boatyard to stop bailiffs clearing the site after British Waterways sold it to developers.

They were evicted from the site earlier this year but vowed to carry on fighting the plans to turn it into luxury flats.

In October, Spring Residential, the developers, declined to comment on the continued pressure from local residents.

Author joins boatyard campaigners
01 Oct 07 |  Oxfordshire
Boatyard protestors refuse to go
15 May 06 |  Oxfordshire
Water bosses vow to sell boatyard
01 Mar 06 |  Oxfordshire
Boatyard eviction case adjourned
26 Oct 05 |  Oxfordshire
Historic boatyard wins reprieve
08 Aug 05 |  Oxfordshire
Protesters fight to save boatyard
02 Aug 05 |  Oxfordshire

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