Residents in Oxford said they would continue their fight to block a new block of flats after developers announced they are to appeal against planning refusal.

In December, Oxford City Council rejected plans by Spring Residential to build 54 flats on the former boatyard site in Jericho and it has remained unused while developers considered a appeal.

Spring Residential's plan includes 54 one- and two-bedroom flats, 16 parking spaces, a public square, a lifting bridge and a boat repair berth.

But it has not been popular with some residents, who say the flats will destroy the character of Jericho.

Their campaign has been backed by His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman, from Oxford, and Lewis actor Kevin Whately.

Adrian Arbib, a boatyard campaigner and Jericho resident, said: "Spring's announcement that they intend to appeal has just come through to us.

"Our fight will go on because if these flats get the go-ahead, it will totally destroy the character of Jericho, which is one of Oxford's jewels.

"The density of the building is the problem because it would overwhelm everything in the area and the local community association is appalled by its density.

"Not enough decent amenities are being provided for local people, particularly for the boating community.

"You wouldn't allow the Eagle and Child to be pulled down because it is part of the city's history, and in the same way you shouldn't allow this development to go ahead.

"The planning inquiry will go ahead but what we would really like to see is a proper mediation process between residents and Spring because we are not opposed to some sort of development taking place.

"The legal bill for the inquiry could be over £1m and money could be saved by spending £20,000 on a proper mediation process."

Fellow campaigner George Taylor said residents would meet to discuss their next move.

He added: "We want to make sure that the community voice is heard at the planning inquiry."

Spring's plans were rejected by the council because of a lack of affordable and energy-efficient housing, insufficient financial contributions to local services, and an inadequate replacement boatyard design.

Following the firm's appeal to the planning inspectorate against the council's decision, a public inquiry will take place at a date to be fixed.

The company has also offered to pay £126,000 towards providing an alternative boatyard in Yarnton.

Chris Lee, a spokesman for the city council, said it was too early to estimate how much the planning inquiry would cost the authority in legal fees.

He added: "It is expected the appeal hearing will take place towards the end of the year."

Rebecca Paczek, a spokesman for Spring Residential, said the firm would not comment further until the planning inquiry.