Editor's pick: Peat digging held contrary to climate change aims

A reporter has refused to extend the period allowed for working peat at a site in south-west Scotland for another 25 years after concluding that it would severely harm environmental objectives, overriding the economic benefits of providing local employment.

The appellant company sought consent to extract peat to a maximum depth of three metres across the entire site over a 25-year period. It explained that peat had been dug at the site since before the Second World War and significant reserves remained. It had invested heavily in the site, expanding a factory and employing additional staff. Given the area's limited job opportunities, it claimed that the facility gave a significant boost to the local economy.

The reporter accepted that job creation was an important consideration and that the proposal complied with development plan policies promoting sustainable communities and economic growth. However, he was concerned that extracting the peat would reduce the site’s capacity as a carbon store, noting that the emerging development plan sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

He also took into account the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009's, which sets ambitious and binding carbon emissions targets and requires public bodies to contribute towards delivering this aim. In his view, restoration of the site should occur as early as reasonably possible and he saw no reason to depart from the council’s previous pattern of granting ten-years consents. Allowing a further 15 years would prejudice environmental and planning objectives, he ruled.

Reporter: Gerry Farrington; Written representations

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