Celebrity zoologist Desmond Morris has added his voice to the protest against plans to destroy an Oxford boatyard.

The author, who lives in North Oxford, appealed for a late compromise to save Castle Mill Boatyard in Jericho from developers.

And he issued a warning that those responsible for destroying the historic site would be remembered by history as vandals.

More than 600 letters of objection have been received by Oxford City Council opposing Spring Residential's plans to build 54 flats on the boatyard site.

Dr Morris believed it was still not too late to modify the development scheme to allow the historic boatyard to survive.

He told the Oxford Mail: "Surely the new development can go ahead while retaining the boatyard, by some simple adjustments to the scheme?

"If not, those responsible for destroying the boatyard, which is an important part of old Oxford, will be identified as vandals by future historians of the city.

Dr Morris added: "All this can be avoided by some intelligent compromises."

Dr Morris, who shot to fame with his 1967 book The Naked Ape, is the latest celebrity figure in Oxford to join the battle to save the boatyard.

The novelist Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, has been a leading campaigner.

Mr Pullman, who lives in Cumnor, recently renamed a narrowboat Lyra's Defiance - inspired by the character Lyra from His Dark Materials - as part of the campaign.

Dr Morris said the boatyard area and towpath represented an important part of his youth.

He said: "I had lunch in a narrowboat in Oxford yesterday and it was a delightful experience. Walking along the towpath by Hythe Bridge I felt I was back in the Oxford I used to know and love as a child in the 1930s, when I used to pay regular visits to the Oxford Zoo, or as a teenager in the 1940s ,when I used to visit the New Theatre, or as a graduate in the 1950s.

"Sitting inside the boat, which is owned by a friend of mine, all I could see were the grounds of Worcester College sweeping down to the water's edge on one side and the towpath on the other. I suddenly felt transported back in time, with no traffic visible or even audible and none of the other signs of busy 21st century Oxford life.

"The city of Oxford is full of little corners of history like this, nooks and crannies that have escaped the vulgar hand of modernizing and that are becoming increasingly precious.

"I am told by canal experts that the new development proposed for the boatyard site could easily be carried out without sacrificing the boatyard itself.

"The two could be combined in such a way that the developers could enjoy the fruits of their proposed buildings without destroying a part of Oxford history.

"If they do destroy the boatyard they will probably find themselves labelled, by later historians, as among the vandals who were allowed to take ugly modern bites out of our fascinating ancient city."

Spring Residential wants to build 54 flats on the site.

Oxford city councillors are expected to decide on planning permission later this autumn.