Author Phillip Pullman joined protesters outside a town hall as talks about the fate of an historic boatyard earmarked for development began.
Author Phillip Pullman said the boatyard was "vital" to Oxford
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.
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.