The biggest carbon store in lowland Cheshire is held in the peat soil at Danes Moss in Macclesfield. If you excavate this peat or disturb it with development projects the carbon will almost certainly be released as up to 220,000 tonnes of CO2 – maybe even more. This is an imminent risk due to a proposed development project – the South Macclesfield Development Area – that has been led by Cheshire East Council since 2016.
I am writing as part of the Save Danes Moss campaign. We aim to stop this development and restore the site to nature.
The justifications from the council for continuing with this reckless scheme are themselves beyond belief. They are trashing their ambitions to be ‘net zero’ and ‘green’ whatever such vapid phrases actually mean.
In 2021 our council spent £6,000 commissioning a report on peatlands in the borough which explains (p.5) that about 98.7% of peatlands in Cheshire East are emitting more greenhouse gases than they are absorbing. The reason for this is the historic and ongoing abuse of peatlands by humans engaged in peat extraction, burning the land for grouse shooting, agricultural drainage, waste dumping, and development projects. The report explains that in spite of their damaged state these peatlands are still huge carbon stores that need to be restored to active carbon sinks and that “the extraction and development of peatlands should be stopped immediately across Cheshire East.”
Despite the fact that only 1.3% of peatlands in the borough are actively sequestering carbon dioxide, Cllr. Sam Corcoran keeps pointing out that the development site is emitting carbon as if that justifies building on it. How incredible that he is not fighting to re-wet and restore the site so it can be both carbon store and carbon sink. Cllr. Corcoran further undermines his environmental credentials by claiming that if the site is rewet then we will have to destroy the wet woodland habitat that shelters Willow Tits, the most endangered bird in the UK. Again, he is wrong. The site can be re-wet and the wet woodland can be retained. The neighbouring Danes Moss Site of Special Scientific Interest is an example of this.
Cllr. Corcoran is now claiming that ‘new technology’ will allow the development to be built on the peat without catastrophic CO2 emissions. We consulted a retired development expert with more than 40 years of experience in major infrastructure projects who looked into these ‘innovative’ soil stabilisation techniques. It turns out that this ‘new technology’ has never been used to build on deep peat in the UK and would – according to reports produced for the council – lead to a 20% shrinkage of the peat. Shrinkage happens when peat dries out as it releases massive carbon emissions. The old landfill site adjacent to the site is managed by a company called FCC Environmental who state that the ‘new technology’ mentioned by Cllr. Corcoran “is highly questionable.”
And here’s the really interesting bit. I do not believe the council’s claim that they are on track to become a carbon neutral council in any meaningful way. So, I asked them how they accounted for the emissions from their endless, dystopian road building and other construction projects. Surely, if the council owns the land – or most of it – and if the council is the planning applicant then these are the council’s emissions? Wrong. The response was that “activities such as road building and housing development have not been included within the council’s carbon baseline or net zero target” because these activities are considered to be “outside of our direct scope.” I see. So, one of the biggest sources of emissions that have been caused by the council’s projects are not the responsibility of the council. This embarrassment is smoothed over with the explanation that it is in fact ‘best practice.’ In other words, everyone else is cheating like us. What disgrace is this?
Do the council understand that climate change is a life and death issue? It’s not something to play public relations games with, it’s not just another box to tick. Around the world, biodiversity is falling in a mass extinction event, temperatures are increasing and more extreme weather is beginning to disrupt food production. The path we are on is absolutely dire. We know that millions of people are already suffering and we are deluded if we think we won’t be affected on our little island. Everything we love and consider important is in danger like never before in human history.
People are waking up to the deceptions that governments are using to maintain business as usual. Cheshire East Council are part of this deception – the superficial appearance of taking climate change seriously but in fact making the problem worse. Fine. Let them play their games and disgrace themselves. For our part, we’re not going to allow anything to be built on Danes Moss or any more peatlands in Cheshire.
I encourage all your readers to visit our website, savedanesmoss.com to learn more.