THE threat of a massive gravel pit being dug between Wallingford and Cholsey has been removed until at least 2030, according to new plans.
Last year, the county council announced it was scrapping its existing minerals strategy after a planning inspector raised questions about how it had consulted other councils.
Under the previous scheme, 1.2m tonnes a year would be dug in Oxfordshire from the Lower Windrush Valley, Eynsham, Cassington, Yarnton, Sutton Courtenay and Caversham, with Cholsey replacing Sutton Courtenay for gravel extraction from 2020 for 25 years.
But the new strategy says less gravel for house building is now required, and Wallingford and Cholsey have been given a reprieve.
Consultation will begin later this month on the new plan, with the council expecting to adopt it in December 2015.
Campaigners in Wallingford are delighted with the new strategy.
Wallingford county councillor Lynda Atkins and Cholsey county councillor Mark Gray, two of four independent councillors holding the balance of power at County Hall, have been members of a minerals working group and have argued against Cholsey being used for gravel extraction.
Ms Atkins said: “The total requirement for sharp sand and gravel from 2013 to 2030 has been revised down from 20.2 million tonnes to 14.58 million tonnes.
“This is very good news for Wallingford and Cholsey.”
Mr Gray, also Cholsey parish council chairman, added: “People in Cholsey and Wallingford have every reason to be happy.
“We are not completely off the hook but providing the inspector is happy with the plan it’s likely that gravel won’t need to be extracted from our area.”
Now, instead of identifying land at Cholsey as a replacement for Sutton Courtenay, the plan is much less specific, and says there is now a “wider area of search” encompassing all the significant sharp sand and gravel areas in southern Oxfordshire, between Oxford and the Goring Gap.
A new policy has been created, with part of it ensuring that any new digging in southern Oxfordshire would only be “in place of an existing quarry”.
Wallingford mayor Bernard Stone said the new plan was “terrific” news.
He said: “Three or four years ago Cholsey was not in consideration and then suddenly the county council made it the top priority in South Oxfordshire.
“The town council invested a lot of time, energy and cash – £10,000 – in fighting this so we feel vindicated.”
Areas in the new plan listed as possible locations for minerals extraction, are: Eynsham, Cassington, Yarnton, including Lower Evenlode Valley, Lower Windrush Valley, north east of Caversham, Oxford to Goring, the Corallian Ridge between Oxford and Faringdon, north-west of Bicester, south of the A40 near Burford, and land east and south-east of Faringdon.
The new document will shortly go out to public consultation.