Pickles cites climate impact in peat extraction refusal

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has blocked plans to extend operations at a peat extraction site near Manchester, citing concerns about the impact of the proposals on climate change.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles (pic courtesy DCLG)
Communities secretary Eric Pickles (pic courtesy DCLG)
The applications sought to amend conditions attached to a planning permission to lengthen the permitted period of time allowed to extract peat from the site at Chat Moss, near Manchester, by 15 years.

William Sinclair Horticulture has appealed against the decision of Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council and Salford City Council to refuse a series of planning applications which sought to extend the duration of peat extraction operations at the site until 31 December 2025 with restoration operations being completed by 31 December 2027.

The original planning permissions for the site allowed for extraction up to December 2010.

The planning applications were refused for reasons including: loss of a carbon sink which would lead to significant CO2 emissions from the oxidisation of peat which is removed as part of the proposals; impact of the proposals on the ecology, hydrogeology and hydrology of the adjacent Twelve Yards Road Site of Biological Importance; and concern that the site could not be successfully restored to a lowland bog habitat.

A public inquiry was held in March 2012 after which a planning inspector recommended that the applications be refused.

A decision letter sent on behalf of Pickles this week said he agreed with his inspector’s decision and refused the application.

Among his reasons, the letter said Pickles had concluded that "there is no national planning policy imperative for new sources of peat supply to be brought forward. He agrees with the Inspector that the release of peat resources in Chat Moss would frustrate the move from peat to non peat media and discourage the development and take up of peat substitutes."

The letter also said Pickles agreed with the inspector that that "the loss of the carbon stored in the site through continued peat extraction and the difficulties that this would pose in meeting the challenge of climate change would be contrary to policies within the development plan which seek to minimise greenhouse gas emissions and to have regard to the need to minimise the impact of development on climate change".

Overall, the letter said that Pickles considered that government "has made it clear that the use of peat in horticulture is unsustainable. Whilst recognising that the National Planning Policy Framework requires the economic benefits of mineral extraction to be given significant weight, like the Inspector, the secretary of state considers that this has to be set within the context of the government’s view that the use of peat in horticulture is unsustainable and it has also to be set against the consequences of peat extraction on climate change and biodiversity".

Campaign group Friends of the Earth has welcomed the decision. In a statement its North West regional campaigner Helen Rimmer said: "The government has rightly set targets to end the use of peat in horticulture and there are plenty of peat-free alternatives - digging up bogs for our gardens is unnecessary vandalism and must be stopped."

The decision letter (DCS Number 100-079-717) can be purchased from DCS Ltd (tel) 01452 835820 or email dcs@haymarket.com

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