THE expansion of a quarry in West Oxfordshire by nearly 200 hectares – about 260 football pitches – has been approved.

Oxfordshire County Council sanctioned the expansion of Gill Mill Quarry, near Ducklington, on Monday, despite concerns about the presence of rare fritillary flowers nearby.

Smiths of Bletchington wants to extract about 7.8m tonnes of sand from the site over a 23-year period.

Once this has been done the land will be restored to a mixture of grassland and nature reserve.

But county councillor Charles Mathew, who represents Eynsham, raised concerns about the scheme. He said: “Everyone says this will have no effect of the fritillaries but by the time we know whether it has had an effect it will be too late because they will be gone.

“I think it will be absolutely dreadful if we lost one of the last remaining major areas of fritillaries.”

The county council said mitigation measures would be included to minimise the development’s impact and added that no objections had been received from Natural England.

Ducklington Parish Council did not object either, nor did South Leigh Parish Council or Witney Town Council.