A WASTE company which has overtipped at an Oxfordshire quarry claims it must expand its landfill site.

Villagers from Finmere, near Bicester, packed out a public inquiry on Tuesday to hear representatives from Premier Aggregates argue for permission to extend their operation at the local quarry.

The hearing at Finmere Village Hall was the latest in a series of long-running planning rows about the site off the A4421.

Premier Aggregates wants to extend the quarry, extract sand, gravel and clay and build a recycling centre on the site.

It is appealing against Oxfordshire County Council's decision last year to refuse planning permission for the work.

Premier Aggregates' operations manager Benjamin Wragg submitted a log of complaints the firm had received since February 2005 to the inquiry.

In written evidence, he said: "Due to a lack of funds, Premier cannot construct Cell 7 which is where most of the overtipped waste will be deposited.

"In the absence of planning permission the company is insolvent, conversely, were planning permission granted potential leaders have indicated that they would be willing to make available the necessary finance.

"Since the change in ownership in July 2005 substantial improvements have been made... but the company's further improvement is now hampered due to lack of funds.

"Additional finance would be forthcoming upon grant of planning permission."

The firm's representatives are also due to argue that an expanded quarry would not significantly harm the environment.

But in written evidence to the inquiry, planning expert Maureen Darrie, on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council, said: "The nature, scale and location of the development is such that local landscape will be unacceptably damaged."

In January, a Government planning inspector ruled Premier Aggregates had overtipped at the site and ordered it to cut the height of a 15-metre heap of rubbish.

Villagers had claimed the mound caused bad smells, dust and litter.

Finmere Parish Council chairman Mike Kerford-Byrnes said villagers opposed the latest plans. He said: "They are so strapped for cash that they can't afford to move the mountain they are supposed to move unless they can expand."

The inquiry is scheduled to last six days.