Actor Kevin Whately, famous worldwide as Sgt Lewis in the Morse series, is backing the campaign against a new waterside development in Jericho, Oxford.

Spring Residential's scheme to build 54 flats on former British Waterways' land has sparked one of the city's most bitter land disputes in recent years, leading to the closure of the historic Castle Mill boatyard.

Tomorrow, city councillors in the central, south and west area will consider the council officers' recomendation to refuse the application to build the four-storey development.

Mr Whately has now added weight to the campaign fronted by Philip Pullman, the author of His Dark Materials, and celebrated zoologist Desmond Morris.

In a letter to Jericho campaigner Adrian Arbib, Mr Whately said: "On Midsummer's day, 1986, John Thaw and I were beside the Jericho boatyard filming the opening scenes for the very first Inspector Morse adventure.

"It was a characterful and photogenic setting, and it remains so, which is why I was back there in November this year, filming the latest Lewis story.

"I know all things change eventually, but, tragically, the majority of redevelopments over the last 50 years have been bungled by greedy property developers.

"I hope the absolutely unique Jericho boatyard will not suffer the same fate."

Scenes from Mr Pullman's Northern Lights novel, which has been turned into the movie, The Golden Compass, are set in Jericho, and Mr Arbib warned that the council would be jeopardising millions of pounds of income from tourists.

Fellow resident Jenny Mann, from Victor Street, said residents' would urge councillors to add to the list of reasons for refusing the development.

At present, the main one is that only a third of the homes are affordable housing. On Saturday, residents met at the community centre in Jericho to view images of plans for the new development.

Mrs Mann added: "We want the councillors to say that the development is out of keeping with the area in terms of scale and design, and that access to public space is not good."

George Taylor, of Great Clarendon Street, added: "Jericho is mostly terraced housing, so the height of the new development will mean that lots of residents feel walled in."

The only point in Spring Residential's favour, Mr Taylor added, was that the developers had pushed forward a land deal to allow for the construction of a new community centre near St Barnabas Church.

A previous application for the site was rejected following a planning inquiry, and about 700 residents have now written to the council to complain.

Andy Wilkins, a spokesman for Spring Residential, was not available for comment.