PLANS to build a sand and gravel quarry in South Oxfordshire have been dealt a blow following a decision by English Heritage to recommend protection for part of the site.

A Bronze Age barrow cemetery, which lies on the 160-hectare site near Culham, has been declared a scheduled monument of archaeological importance by the conservation body.

The recommendation could protect up to 25 acres of the site between the villages of Clifton Hampden, Appleford and Long Wittenham.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid approved the decision, which will now be passed to Oxfordshire County Council’s archaeological department, working with English Heritage to decide how the site will be protected.

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Hills Quarry Products proposed building the quarry after it said not enough sand and gravel was being extracted in the county to meet the needs of planned housing expansion over the next 20 years.

The plans have been opposed by Burcot and Clifton Hampden Protection of the River Thames (BACHPORT), which has attracted more than 500 members in the past six months.

Chairman Ian Mason said: “This is an important victory for us. We have helped save a nationally- important archaeological asset from being destroyed, and the quarry company will have to re-consider their plans for the site.

“Building the quarry would add hundreds of lorry movements a day to an already heavily-congested road and could lead to more frequent and severe flooding. There are more appropriate sites closer to where the gravel is used and without traffic and flooding issues.”

In the report English Heritage said barrow cemeteries like this are rare and of national importance.

The report states: “The proposed gravel extraction would destroy all archaeological deposits and what remains is extremely vulnerable.

“The most well-known barrow cemetery sites at Barrow Hills (near Radley) and Dorchester-on-Thames have been largely destroyed by gravel extraction. The site (Fullamoor) is of clear national importance and should be designated a scheduled monument.”

Hills Quarry Products has the right to appeal the decision.

Spokesman Darren Goddard said: “Hills Quarry Products has in excess of 30 years of experience in supporting, funding and working with local archaeology teams to protect sites of archaeological significance. With respect to the Fullamoor Plantation we are in liaison with Oxfordshire County Council and English Heritage with regard to a scheduled monument consent as part of our plan for the proposed Culham sand and gravel quarry.”

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