In a landmark decision based on climate change rather than commercial needs, Communities and Local Government Minister, Eric Pickles, has rejected an appeal by William Sinclair Horticulture to extend its peat extraction licence on Chat Moss.
The precious bogs, which are sickeningly bled to death in the peat extraction process, are also huge carbon sinks. And one reason given by Pickles was that the continued extraction of peat will lead to significant carbon dioxide emissions.
The Moss has been an ecological battle ground during the last few years, with protest walks featuring politicians from all parties (see Salford Moon Walk here) and campaigners from Earth First! chaining themselves to diggers on the site (see here).
"It's a huge relief that common sense has prevailed and Eric Pickles has refused to allow further peat extraction at Chat Moss" says Friends of the Earth's North West Regional Campaigner Helen Rimmer "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" she adds "Digging up bogs for our gardens is unnecessary vandalism and must be stopped."
Another reason given by Pickles for the exraction refusal was 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."
Salford Council has put out a press release `welcoming the news' but, as the Salford Star has consistently documented (see links below), the Council has failed miserably in protecting the bogs in the past.
In 1984, when unauthorised peat extraction began, the Moss was a Grade A Site of Biological Importance and a breeding ground for one of the country's most threatened birds, the Nightjar. Now there's hardly anything left to protect.
In 2004 Salford Council gave planning permission for another site on the Moss to extract not only 50,000 cubic metres of peat every year for 13 years, but also a license to extract almost three million tonnes of sand and gravel, which lies underneath the peat, for 18 years. It left ecologists gobsmacked.
In 2007, the Salford Star exposed the blatant unauthorised destruction by peat merchants of the raised bogs on Astley Moss East. When confronted, Salford Council, which was supposed to be monitoring the site, stated "We are not aware of any peat extraction since October 2005".
And sitting at the centre of the controversial destruction of `Salford's rain forests' has been the greedy elephant in the room, Peel Holdings, which owns the land. The £multi-billion company could have stopped the `unnecessary vandalism' years ago but chose exploitation over ecology every time. This is the same company that has encouraged the BBC's eco-friendly Blue Peter garden onto its MediaCityUK site.
Meanwhile, Salford City Council is finally waking up to the value of the natural assets on its own doorstep
"The City Council has a long term vision for the whole Chat Moss area and this decision is a major milestone in achieving that" says Councillor Derek Antrobus, Assistant Mayor for Strategic Planning "We are working with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, neighbouring councils and others to secure restoration of the nationally rare lowland raised bog habitat.
"This area in Salford is one of the best areas in the country for doing this" he adds "It will also help to open up the mosslands area for enjoyment by local people and visitors from further afield."
It makes a change from Salford Council's previous attitude and disgraceful neglect…
For a full history of peat extraction and protest on Chat Moss see previous Salford Star articles…
The first Salford Star expose - Peel Holdings and the Plight of the Salford Butterfly - click here
Salford Illegal Peat Mining on Chat Moss - click here
Save Salford's Rain Forest - click here
Salford Council Landmark Peat Extraction Decision - click here
Main photo features Salford MP Barbara Keeley who joined the first protest walk