DINOSAUR footprints and tracks in north Oxfordshire dating back more than 165 million years are set to get official protection.

The fossilised prints, thought to have been made by plant-eating cetiosaurs and meat-eating megalosaurs, were discovered at the landfill site in Ardley, near Bicester, in 1997.

Natural England, the Government’s independent adviser on the natural environment, announced yesterday that it was proposing the area where the tracks were found should become a Site of Special Scientific Interest — ensuring it is preserved.

The public can give their views on the proposals until May 19 before the decision is confirmed.

Its new status will mean the Ardley Trackways will be protected from future development, exposure to the elements and damage from erosion.

Dr Helen Phillips, chief executive of Natural England, said: “Geological sites of this quality and importance are few and far between and we’re delighted to give this window on our past the protection it so clearly deserves.”

Conservation adviser Rebecca Tibbetts said the fossilised tracks were of international importance.

She added: “From the prints, you can see a herd of herbivores walking along a mudflat and behind them there are the prints of carnivores, so you can see that there is a hunting situation there.

“Also, you can see the change in gait. Originally something was walking and then it was starting to trot.”

Site manager Viridor said all the organisations involved had reached a joint solution to preserve the site.

Sections of stone from the old quarry, which include a number of the footprints, were installed in the garden at the Oxfordshire Museum, in Woodstock in 2008.