PLANS to build a multi-million pound marina on Green Belt land next to the Oxford Canal have been put forward.

Farmer Merlin Smith wants to build and operate the 206-berth inland waterways marina, boat workshop and boater facilities on 12 hectares of agricultural land off Woodstock Road, Yarnton.

He also wants to create a new access road, car parking and footpaths which would give pedestrians and cyclists a direct route along the canal towpath into Oxford city centre.

As part of the plans, Mr Smith, who will build and operate the marina, hopes to start a canal boat hire business with the potential for day trips for tourists.

The plans, submitted to Cherwell District Council, also propose enhanced ecology and landscaping, and the creation of new habitats on land surrounding the marina.

So far there has been a mixed response to the proposals.

Yarnton Parish Council has objected over development in the Green Belt and raised issues about access from the A44.

Nigel Willliams, of Aston Gardens, Aston Rowant, Watlington, said the development was not required as there were already nine marinas in the county, and another would cause congestion on the water during the summer.

But Fiona Lloyd, of Larkfield, Cholsey, near Wallingford, supported the application saying it was a “much needed facility” for local boaters.

In a letter, she said: “The marina would fit in particularly well with the nature reserve on the other side of the canal.”

Stephen Rice, of GJP Marinas, the agent for the plans, said the development would help regenerate the canal and expand recreational facilities available on the waterways network.

He said: “I think it could stimulate other canal boat development along the canal into Oxford.”

Mr Rice said that as the Yarnton marina would service Oxford city centre it could encourage the city to make more of its canal like Birmingham and Stratford have.

He declined to say how much would be invested, but said it would be a “multi-million pound” project.

Regarding development on Green Belt, Mr Rice said: “The key issue here is that it’s not impossible to develop in a Green Belt.

“There are two types of development we have in the Green Belt, inappropriate and appropriate.

“Appropriate development includes development for recreation, and people use boats for recreation. It’s not residential and we have not applied for residential.”

If plans are approved, work could start next year and Mr Smith hopes the marina would open in 2014.

Up to seven jobs would be created, with more if the hire boat business takes off.