PLANS to create a sand and gravel quarry at a former Cotswold airfield, which had sparked Ministry of Defence concerns it could endanger aircraft travelling to and from RAF Fairford, could be approved next week.

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 annum from an extraction area of 440 acres and implement a phased restoration scheme using imported infill.

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

This is to allay 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.

“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.”

The operational aspects of the 583 acres application area at Down Ampney comprises 317 acres of mineral extraction; 26.6 acres for washing, bagging and concrete batching plant are.

If approved, it will also use 41.5 acres for a water and silt management area and include 143.8 acres of existing woodland, proposed initial woodland planting, retained areas of former runway, site access, offices and weighbridge areas and site margin.

During the Second World War, RAF Down Ampney was based on the outskirts of the village and was operational from February 1944 – February 1947.

The base was home to around 3,000 personnel. It was from there that RAF 48 and 271 Squadrons Douglas Dakotas flew on major missions.

Down Ampney was part of a group of airfields dedicated to air transportation, alongside RAF Broadwell and RAF Blakehill Farm.