Down Ampney quarry plan could go ahead as RAF Fairford's fears allayed

The bridleway at Down Ampney. Credit: LDRS

Plans for a sand and gravel quarry at a former airfield in the Cotswolds could be approved next week.

The Ministry of Defence previously expressed concern that it would endanger aircraft travelling to and from RAF Fairford. However, these fears have now been allayed.

Hills Quarry Products Ltd wants permission from Gloucestershire County Council to redevelop the former airfield in Down Ampney.

Their plans for the former RAF Down Ampney Airfield and surrounding areas in New Road, Down Ampney are due to be considered by the planning committee on September 28.

They want 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 year from an extraction area of 440 acres.

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

This is to allay the concerns of the MOD. Due to the site’s proximity to RAF Fairford, the development could increase the likelihood of bird strikes.

The site is just under a mile to the south west of RAF Fairford, which is a military aerodrome operated by the United States Air Force (USAF).

The airfield benefits from a single runway and provides USAF’s only European airfield for heavy bombers.

The MOD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation detailed its concerns in a letter to the council in September 2021.

“The development proposed entails the stripping of topsoil, the extraction, working and storage of minerals, and the phased restoration of the site,” the letter reads.

“Each of these activities have the potential to create an environment that would be attractive to those large and/or flocking bird species hazardous to aviation safety.

“The potential hazard is exacerbated by the proximity of the application site to several lakes within the area, and to RAF Fairford.

Map of Down Ampney airfield. Credit: LDRS

“The applicant has acknowledged that aircraft passing close to the application site, approaching or departing RAF Fairford, are likely to be at altitudes of less than 1,000ft above ground level and would be within the range of altitudes where 90% of birdstrike events take place.

“The applicant and the MOD have conducted pre-application discussions. Through these discussions the MOD has made clear that restoration of the site which results in the creation of open water would be unacceptable as those waterbodies would likely provide an environment attractive to those large and/or flocking bird species hazardous to aviation.

“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.”

Credit: Carmelo Garcia, Local Democracy Reporting Service.