What happened to Dorchester-on-Thames in the 1960s and ‘70s was a crime against our heritage. In particular, the Big Rings, a Neolithic henge monument described as a rare concentration of ritual activity equivalent to Avebury and Stonehenge in national importance, was quite literally dug up and thrown away through gravel extraction.

The whole Dorchester-Warborough-Stadhampton area is recognised as a very rare example of what archaeologists refer to as a ‘preferred location’. That is a landscape which has been used as a central location for communal activity since time began.

Such locations are exceedingly rare in Europe and it could be argued that the Dorchester region is unique.

It contains many Scheduled Ancient Monuments and remains from many periods.

In 2003 eight local parishes came together and successfully defended the area from further massive gravel extraction plans.

Had these plans been implemented, the county council would have sanctioned the destruction of a substantial area of archaeological importance.

Now this area is being forced to defend itself again.

The first stage of the consultation process on the core strategy of the county council’s new minerals and waste development framework has been completed.

This strategy is being driven by a regional target that overestimates demand. The pressure to open new areas for extraction should and must be challenged.

It must be proved once and for all that this is not the right area for gravel extraction.

Archaeology is a finite resource. Dig it up and it’s gone forever. Today, unlike 40 years ago, there is a policy presumption that important archaeological remains should be left in situ.

As an Oxfordshire county councillor representing seven threatened parishes, and the Heritage Champion for the county, I will be doing all I can to support my local communities in their fight to protect their historic environment from destruction.

Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, Oxfordshire county councillor Dorchester and Berinsfield, County council Heritage Champion