A BID to create a sand and gravel quarry at a historic Second World War airfield near Cirencester has have been given the go-ahead.

Gloucestershire County Council has approved plans by Hills Quarry Products to redevelop the former airfield in Down Ampney at a meeting yesterday, Thursday.

Their plans for the former RAF Down Ampney airfield and surrounding areas in New Road, Down Ampney were considered by the planning committee at Shire Hall on September 28.

The company wants to extract around 6.5 million tonnes of sand and gravel over 13 years in nine phases based on an average of 510,000 tonnes per annum from an extraction area of 440 acres and implement a phased restoration scheme using imported infill.

Shire Hall officers recommended approving the scheme subject to a prior agreement to secure the implementation of a wildlife hazard management.

This was to allay Ministry of Defence concerns that the development could increase the likelihood of bird-strikes on aircraft using RAF Fairford.

The site is just under a mile to the south west of the base, which is operated by the United States Air Force and is the only one site in Europe for the USAF’s heavy bombers.

The MOD raised concerns that stripping topsoil and extraction work could create an environment which would be attractive to species of birds which are hazardous to planes flying near RAF Fairford at low altitudes.

This could be exacerbated due to the proximity of the site to several lakes, it was feared.

During pre-application discussions, the MOD made it clear that any work to create open water would be unacceptable as these would attract bird species which are hazardous to aviation.

In a letter contained in the application, the MOD says: "The applicant’s proposal takes MOD advice into account, making clear that the site is to be restored to provide agricultural land, lowland meadow and permanent pasture, wet woodland, woodland, grassland, and reed marsh as well as retained sections of the former runways.”

Hills representatives said the firm had been fully engaged with the MOD throughout the planning process and agreed to all the necessary bird management control measures.

Group director Peter Andrew said: “We have worked with all of the statutory consultees to find a solution that allows mineral to be extracted, creates a restored landscape that adds to the locality, but also doesn’t pose any risks to our neighbours at RAF Fairford.

“The MOD has been fully engaged throughout the planning process and we have agreed all necessary bird management control measures.”

The committee voted to approve the scheme by nine votes to two.

The operational aspects of the application area are 317 acres for mineral extraction and 26 acres for washing, bagging and concrete batching.

It includes a water and silt management area, woodland planting, retaining areas of former runway, site access, offices and weighbridge areas and a site margin.

Based on the outskirts of the village, RAF Down Ampney, which was home to around 3,000 personnel, was operational between February 1944 and February 1947.

It was part of a group of airfields dedicated to air transportation, alongside RAF Broadwell and RAF Blakehill Farm, with RAF 48 and 271 Squadrons Douglas Dakotas flying on major missions from the site.