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Minister refuses permission for peat extraction

Communities Minister Eric Pickles has upheld a decision by Salford Council to refusal planning permission for peat-extraction at Chat Moss, near Manchester.

The Council refused an application by William Sinclair Horticulture for 15 years’ further peat extraction at Chat Moss over environmental concerns. A public enquiry into the application concluded, “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.”

The application had received around 600 objections by the time the government decision was made. Lancashire Wildlife Trust has bought part of the land, which it says it will restore and transform into a nature reserve.

Friends of the Earth spokesperson Helen Rimmer said of Pickles’ decision, “It’s a huge relief that common sense has prevailed and Eric Pickles has refused to allow further peat extraction at Chat Moss. It beggars belief that in 2012 companies still want to destroy British peat bogs. These are important wildlife sites that ‘lock in’ carbon and reduce flood risk.

“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.”

Around 15%of peatland in the EU is in the UK. Grave concerns have been raised over the environmental cost of peat extraction, as peatlands provide habitat for many threatened species and peat itself is a carbon sink; it has been estimated that peat extraction in the UK releases 630,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year, the equivalent of 300,000 cars.

The government has set the horticulture industry a deadline of 2030 to completely phase out the use of peat compost, though the industry has already missed a deadline of reducing use by 90 per cent by 2010.

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