A GIANT quarry planned for the heart of rural South Oxfordshire is set to be refused in days' time after major concerns were raised about road safety.

Campaigners are on tenterhooks to see if a three-year campaign against the sand and gravel extraction site on the Thames near Clifton Hampden has been successful.

An application for the quarry, which would be the size of 165 football pitches, will go in front of Oxfordshire County Council's planning committee on Monday, but the council's officers have now recommended it be refused.

Developer Hills Quarry Products is understood to be making a last-ditch attempt to save the project but it is rare for officer advice to be changed at such a late stage.

The council's principal highways engineer, Geoffrey Arnold, said he had made up his mind on the unacceptable impact of the scheme on local roads, including the A415, after commissioning extensive traffic surveys.

He is now warning that even a slight increase in traffic from the quarry would result in 'gridlock', increasing the possibility of collisions and threatening air quality.

The 'severe harm' the development could cause has led Mr Arnold to object to it going ahead at all.

Hills is hoping the objection will be overturned if it agrees not to run lorries during weekday rush hours but this had not been successful at the time the Herald went to press.

Campaigners from the Clifton Hampden-based Bachport group are cautiously celebrating the news but have pledged to keep fighting the plans, which would result in 2.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel excavated over 10 years.

Clifton Hampden resident and group spokesman Giles Baxter said: "Our position remains that beyond the traffic, there is a whole raft of reasons why it should not be given permission to go ahead.

"We do not believe it is needed, it will have an enormous visual impact and will cause problems for other projects such as the planned road bridge across the Thames."

Mr Baxter, an army consultant, did not feel adjusting the access times would make any difference to traffic problems.

He said: "That would simply move the problem and these types of conditions are very difficult to enforce.

"What are you going to do if a truck arrives early? Leave it sitting in the middle of the road?"

Monique Hayes, a spokeswoman for Hills, said: "We are liaising with the council to address concerns raised by statutory consultees before the application is considered by the planning committee."