A QUARRY that Wallingford's mayor fears will cause 'significant harm' to residents has been approved by Oxfordshire County Council.

At a meeting of the authority's planning and regulation committee last week, councillors voted in favour of creating a sand and gravel quarry at New Barn Farm, between Wallingford and the village of Cholsey.

The application was submitted by Grundon Sand and Gravel Limited, which is based in nearby Benson, and laid out plans for removing 2.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel over the next 18 years, with the following two years used to restore the site.

Wallingford's mayor, Mike Kidley, sent a letter to all 13 members of the county council committee urging them to vote against the planning officer's recommendation to approve the scheme, but it was not enough to alter the committee's final decision.

He wrote: "A gravel pit on the edge of Wallingford will disturb the relative tranquility of the small piece of countryside separating the two large communities of Wallingford and Cholsey."

He said it would cause 'significant harm' to a large number of residents of all ages during the next 20 years, adding: "Wallingford is the largest and most complete surviving example of a Saxon fortified town in England and its history and future should be protected."

Henry Thornton, from action group Communities Against Gravel Extraction (CAGE), also spoke at the meeting against the proposal, saying: "It will certainly not improve the quality of life in Wallingford or make the town more prosperous."

"When one of the county’s principal market towns says it will be harmed we hope the county will listen and support it.

"This application is simply wrong and it is wrong for obvious reasons."

He went on to highlight the site's proximity to popular walks, a heritage railway and listed buildings.

But planning officers disagreed that any damage caused by the plans was insurmountable.

In a report to committee members, Susan Halliwell, director of planning and place for the county council, wrote: "The proposed development would be beneficial in terms of contributing towards Oxfordshire’s supply of sharp sand and gravel and providing a high quality restoration.

"It is considered that potential impacts can be adequately addressed through planning conditions and legal and routing agreements as proposed."

There was strong opposition when a similar scheme was proposed six years ago.

In 2011, villagers in Cholsey launched a campaign to stop plans to extract almost five million tonnes of sand and gravel from a pit in the same area.

Despite a reprieve when the county council revised the amount of gravel extraction needed for housebuilding across Oxfordshire this was upped again in 2014, with Grundon subsequently buying the 165-acre site at New Barn Farm in January, 2015.

A date has not yet been set for when work will begin on the New Barn Farm site.