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SALFORD MOON WALK
 

Star date: 28th February 2010

PEEL HOLDINGS' LUNAR LANDSCAPE IN SALFORD    

"It's absolutely desolate…" Barbara Keeley, MP Worsley and Eccles South

"It's like being on the moon…" Ian Lindley, Councillor and Conservative candidate for Worsley and Eccles South
 
"It's similar to what they're doing to the rain forests…" David Henry, Hazel Must Go! candidate for Salford

Yesterday afternoon politicians, residents and anti Peel Holdings protesters took a walk to the scene of the biggest environmental destruction in Salford, if not the North West. 

Full story here…


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SALFORD MOON WALK
click image to enlarge

When you experience the vast expanse of black nothing it's a feeling of utter shock. When you see for yourself the water flowing out of pipes sunk deep into the soil, you witness the land bleeding to death.

This is why the Save Our North West Green Belt group organised a rain-sodden, mud soaked walk from Irlam to Peel Holdings' peat extraction site in the middle of Salford's precious mosslands – they wanted everyone to see the despair for themselves. Despair that can hardly be captured in words or photos.

A kind of shocked hush descended on the politicians, protesters and local residents as they arrived at the site. What was once lush mossland covered in flora and fauna and birds and wildlife is now reduced to bare soil, stabbed with deep ditches draining the water and life out of the land. All in the name of profit. 

This was a rare precious raised bog, protected in law from a directive passed down from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. In terms of bio diversity these bogs are premier league. They are formed through ages from waterlogged mosses which expand like a wet sponge and rise above ground level. On the surface grow special plants and bugs which attract rare birds and butterflies. Underneath are deep layers of peat rich in nutrients, which makes the soil perfect for the grow bags you get in garden centres.

To get the peat the bog is stripped and the water drained.  And once the peat is extracted, the clay, sand and gravel below that is mined, leaving a land full of nothing.

Peat extraction on land owned by Peel Holdings is happening all over Salford's mosslands. At Astley Moss East, despite Council officers recommending that enforcement action be taken against Peel for "clear breaches of planning permission", in December 2004 Salford Council gave planning permission for Peel Holdings to extract 50,000 cubic metres of peat every year for the next 13 years and three million tonnes of sand and gravel for 18 years. It left local ecologists gobsmacked. The Council considered that Peel's plans to `restore' the bog at a later date and the "high quality of the sand and gravel" to be sold "outweighs the loss of the ecological resource that is degraded peat".

At this bog near Irlam, further planning permission to extract peat is due during 2010 and the protest against such ecological vandalism is growing by the day.

"We're pleased with the turnout" said Jackie Anderson of Save Our North West Green Belt "It's been good to show everyone how the peat extraction works, how vast it is and how devastating it is. We believe that it needs to be brought to the public's attention as it's absolutely paramount that the peat extraction stops as soon as possible. There's a likelihood that the licence may be renewed and we want to help the public realise what a beautiful area it is up here on Chat Moss and how it needs to be urgently restored."

The protest walked past Moss Farm, which had great ideas for a community farm to encourage people to come to the mosslands. But its owners couldn't get planning permission because the farm is on Green Belt land. A few hundred yards away, ironically, Peel Holdings is continuing with the extraction of peat on an industrial scale in the Green Belt with full planning permission...

It's hypocrisy like this that has led to the founding of the first Salford branch of Friends of the Earth... This area is soon to become an ecological battle ground.

Meanwhile, a few miles away at one of Peel Holdings' other Salford's interests, MediaCityUK, the Blue Peter Garden will shortly be installed, showing our children how to be eco friendly... 

                                        ***************************

POLITICAL INTERLUDE

Despite Councillor Derek Antrobus, Salford Council's Lead Member for Planning saying this month that he was "shocked" by Peel Holdings proposals for further peat extraction on Chat Moss, the wholesale destruction of the bogs has happened during decades of the Labour Council's control over what is permitted on the mosslands.

Yesterday not one single Labour councillor was on the protest walk, leaving local MP Barbara Keeley to answer accusations of neglect…

BARBARA KEELEY MP

Why are you here?

"I've come along because I think it's important for as many people as possible to understand the issues that are going on here...The Council is trying to finish the peat extraction and return Chat Moss to its natural habitat…As we've seen on our walk, it's absolutely desolate…"

So is Peel Holdings evil?

"It's not a question of that I think, there's just not enough consideration of communities that live in Salford and these areas. People need houses and jobs but people also need green open spaces and they need important areas. Chat Moss is one of the most important mossland areas in Greater Manchester and we have to try and preserve it. And that has not been taken into account. Everything is not about profit and everything is not about development, there's also people having quality in their lives and that's important too."

Peat extraction has been going on for years but nothing's been done to stop it, what does that say about the Labour Council?

"The important thing about this that I've realised over the last couple of weeks as this campaign has been building up is that it was Labour that invented the Green Belt, it's a Labour idea…and we have to have Labour protecting the Green Belt…"

But the Labour Council isn't doing that in Salford…

"No? Well we should. That's all there is to it. We should…"

But they haven't…

"But I'm an MP not a councillor and I'm here, that's all I can say…"

 

Also on the walk was Lib Dem Candidate for Salford, Councillor Norman Owen, David Henry, Hazel Must Go! candidate for Salford and Ian Lindley, Councillor and Conservative candidate for Worsley and Eccles South.

IAN LINDLEY

What's your reaction to the peat extraction site?

"I'm absolutely astonished by the scale of it - it's like being on the moon, wholesale destruction of peat bogland and it's great to see so many local people here trying to protect their local environment." 

What do you think of Peel Holdings?

"I think they've made some very wrong headed proposals that are not good for the future of the district here and Salford as a whole. They're entitled to try and make money. And we're entitled as local residents and local people to try and stop them if we don't think they're acting in the interest of the local area and local people."

So is Peel Holdings evil?

"No. I wouldn't describe them as evil but when they're proposing things that aren't in the interests of local people then we have to try and combat that. That's why we as Conservatives are trying to put planning back into the hands of local people like those who are here today."

What do you think of Councillor Derek Antrobus, who has overseen Peel's licence applications and is now saying he is shocked by their proposals? 

"I think the only reason why Peel have been able to come forward with such destructive proposals is because Labour's regional spatial strategy allows them to do so. So yes, it's completely hypocritical of Labour politicians locally saying this is a bad thing when nationally they're actually voting through the planning process that allows this sort of thing to happen in the first place."
 
But in the past Labour, Lib Dem and the Tories on Salford Council have never said a word against peat extraction on the mosslands?

"Well I can only talk for now and myself, and now that I've seen it I hope that when the application comes up again we take another look at it."

DAVID HENRY

What's your reaction to the peat extraction site?

"It's similar to what they're doing to the rain forests. It just shows the lengths to which Peel Holdings will go to exploit the environment and the people and wildlife that depend on it. From an environmental point of view it would be good if there was a legal challenge because it's morally unjustifiable."

So is Peel Holdings evil?

"It's shades of grey. What they are doing is disgusting and offensive to everyone who lives in the area, particularly those who live on the estate that looks out onto the land.  It's devastation on their doorstep for private greed. I've never seen anything like it in Salford."

                                   *****************************


Read the full history of peat extraction on Salford's mosslands here

salford star wrote
at 10:31:29 on 04 March 2010
See John Merry's comment below...Chill out, man, it was only a joke - we think...
 
John Merry wrote
at 10:29:05 on 04 March 2010
Peel Holdings would not agree with you and Dereks attack on their proposals for Salford. Try producing some evidence for your statement that I have handed Salford over to Peel but then it would get in the way of a clever statement.
 
ant wrote
at 07:51:26 on 04 March 2010
It looks like the end of the world! All this land is fit for now is Doctor Who. Why doesnt John Merry give the land to the other prodigal son the BBC?
 
salford star wrote
at 13:38:20 on 03 March 2010
See John Merry's comments below...So why bother with a local council planning dept - might as well just hand Salford over to Peel Holdings...oh, sorry, you already have done!
 
John Merry wrote
at 13:33:10 on 03 March 2010
I repeat we do not support the further extraction of peat we do however have to implement national planning rules laid down by the Government. I will be seeking in the core strategy to challenge those existing assumptions if we can do so
 
Salford Star wrote
at 11:13:46 on 03 March 2010
See John Merry's comment below...So who was in power in 2004 when the "continued extraction and processing of peat" was permitted? Here's the planning decision - see for yourself 02/45004/FULEIA
 
John Merry wrote
at 11:09:46 on 03 March 2010
The Labour Group has never in the time I have been Leader supported the further extraction of peat on the mosslands. We do not however have the power to get rid of existing planning permission.
 
satnav wrote
at 04:04:45 on 03 March 2010
It might be an idea if the ruling labour council nicely ask peel holding if they can fill their plastic water bottles with some of the water they are draining from the moss. As I am sure it would possibly be filtered? As it would save the council quite a few pounds of Salford tax\payer moneys buying refills at (how much??) and be environmentally friendly also. And WELL DONE Barbara for turning up at this meeting, it must have put you in a well difficult position. But you did attend, And i for one feel that matters to Salford people. We now at times MPs has to bite ones tongue .Due to ones affiliations. And cannot say publicly exactly what one would like to say at times. Like what is happening at the moss. But I take my hat of to you for having the conviction to be there. As I feel this is exactly part of the job of being an MP. But not one ruling labour councillor turned up? This says a lot about how certan arigant labour councelors think about the people of Salford to me. The majority of councillors are whit out a bought good hardworking and Caring people. But I personally feel some of such councillors of the ruling party are being lead by the nose by a closed powerful inner ring. And people are starting to question the judgment and values of this inner ring. As a voter I personally feel a change of leadership is needed in Salford now. And fast and certain top Salford labour people must take a hard look at their selves and do the right thing for Salford. With what I have been reading in this online paper of late especially regarding the ruling councils decisions in endorsing what is hapening to the moss .and allowing such things to go a head is inconceivable to me? Salford heritage is being ripped apart and how profits from it. Certainly not are sons and daughters as the moss will be lost and now dough planning permission for building on will be next?? To the ruling Party I say come on and stand up and sort your selves out or we voters will do at the ballot box. I have voted all my life for labour. But I will vote with a protest vote if labour do not get their act together and put the people first and get rid of the people how just want the limelight and have simply become power hungry And self-centred. If not I feel labour will lose thousands and thousands of votes in Salford and not just council votes labour MPs votes as well? And what you need to ask your selves is simply were will such votes go and what party could get a foot hold in Salford?? and is this what you want for Salford i dought it but you all will be responsible for this ??.
 
Alan Byrom wrote
at 07:23:41 on 01 March 2010
I was born and raised in Salford. I became an enviromentalist and anti-industrialist at a very early age when I gazed upon the jet black River Irwell. I currently live in Yukon Territory, Canada where I emigrated in 1967 at age 22. From my earliest years England was sacred ground. When I saw a cement factory in Hope valley Derbyshire, eating its way thru the limestone, in a previously non industrial National Trust, all for the sake of 20 jobs, I was broken hearted. We must fight against this terrible destruction and hold all politicians accountable for desecration of our sacred Mother Earth. Don't forget, Lancashire is Lancelot's Shire.
 
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