BIG increases in gravel and sand extraction in Oxfordshire needs to be urgently reviewed, ministers have been told.

With fears mounting that large areas of Oxfordshire’s countryside could be under threat, the Government has been told to act on its promises to allow key planning decisions to be made locally.

Ian Hudspeth, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for infrastructure, has written to the Communities and Local Government Minister, Greg Clark, arguing that unfair extraction figures were drawn up by the regional assembly, which is to be abolished.

Mr Hudspeth said: “While we accept that in Oxfordshire we have a significant supply of resources, there are large areas of the county that have already been devastated by mineral extraction.”

The amount of gravel proposed in latest targets would see extraction rise in Oxfordshire by almost 20 per cent.

Nationally, however, gravel extracting is to go down by 2.4 per cent.

Mr Hudspeth has told the minister that an inspector should not have allowed a reduction in Kent and Surrey to be compensated by an increase in Oxfordshire, as the minerals would have to be moved more than 30 miles.

He urged the Government to look at making better use of recycled minerals and stone.

Sites in Oxfordshire that could be hit if the proposed minerals targets are not changed include Dorchester, Radley, Benson, Culham, Warborough, Sutton Courtenay, the Lower Windrush Valley, Eynsham and Cassington.

Another option is to include sites near Cholsey, Bicester, Chipping Norton, Faringdon, Bampton, Witney and Burford.

The Parishes Against Extraction group (PAGE), which represents eight parishes in South Oxfordshire, said key decisions affecting the Oxfordshire countryside should be left to the county council.

The group said it had been encouraged that the government had issued guidelines saying that councils could submit new evidence and figures.

PAGE spokesman Steve Thompson said: “We shall be lobbying local government hard to ensure county councillors know that they now have an opportunity for self-determination on minerals policy.

“It is time that every county councillor realises that the on-going plans to exploit the River Thames flood plain for sand and gravel are wholly unacceptable to local communities and must be challenged.”