VILLAGERS have launched a campaign to stop plans to extract almost five million tonnes of sand and gravel from a pit near their homes.

Oxfordshire County Council wants to allow fields between Cholsey and the Wallingford bypass to be used to extract the minerals for 25 years.

But neighbours, concerned about destruction and disruption, have formed a Communities against Gravel Extraction (Cage) action group to fight the bid.

The group, which has planned a meeting in September, has hired a mineral extraction and planning specialist to demonstrate why the site is not suitable.

Chairman Henry Thornton said the land was enjoyed by walkers and cyclists and was close to the popular Wallingford and Cholsey railway.

Mr Thornton, 61, from Church Road, Cholsey, said: “The worrying thing is no one seems to be aware of this threat. It would have a major effect on both Wallingford and Cholsey.

“The natural, rural character will change and it will change for ever.

“There are genuinely other sites which are more suitable.”

The county council said the site could be used to excavate 4.9m tonnes of sand and gravel over 25 years – at a rate of 200,000 tonnes each year.

Its gravel extraction strategy would allow work to continue at existing sites in the lower Windrush Valley, and in the area around Eynsham, Cassington and Yarnton, and at Caversham, near Reading.

But the council announced earlier this year that the Cholsey site could replace Sutton Courtenay, which is expected to run out of sand and gravel in about eight years.

It had previously abandoned plans for the Cholsey site in October, along with sites at Radley, Nuneham Courtenay, Clanfield, Bampton, Stanton Harcourt, Clifton Hampden, the Wittenhams, Benson, Shillingford and Warborough.

Cage member Adrian Hatt, 60, of Goldfinch Lane, Cholsey, said: “Cholsey has been leapfrogged from the bottom position to the top.

“It’s really detrimental to the area.”

In a letter to the Oxford Mail Mr Hatt said the move would be “catastrophic” and leave a “blatant scar on the landscape”.

He wrote: “A public inquiry is likely to follow, and it will be a long battle to resist this unwelcome proposal.”

Public consultation on the strategy will run from early September to October 31 and people will be able to respond online at

Forms will also be available by post.

County council spokesman Owen Morton said: “The council’s final view on the strategy for minerals will only be decided once we have given full consideration to all the comments we receive.

“The strategy will then go forward for independent examination by a planning inspector next year.”

Digging could begin in eight years’ time.

Cholsey Parish Council chairman Mark Gray said the community would put up a strong fight against the plans.

He added: “It is a lose-lose situation. We get all the mess and noise of a gravel pit followed by a big hole in the ground.”