FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) and Frequently Made Assumptions

Here we try to answer your most commonly asked questions on Danes Moss questions on Danes Moss. 

We also deal with a lot of the nonsense that Cheshire East Council have put into the public domain in their attempts to justify their horrendous plans – to their eternal shame.

 

How big is the site? 

  • About 136 acres or 55.05 hectares.
 
 

Who owns the site?

  • Most of the site is owned by Cheshire East Council – about 53.6% of the land or 29.54 hectares. The rest is owned by a private developer. This used to be a Jersey-based company called TG Ltd. That land may have been sold to Barratt Homes recently but this is not certain. It would be nice if the Council was more transparent and explained who their development partner is at present. 
 

 

Don’t we need more houses in Macclesfield? 

  • No. And certainly not on peatland.
  • The housing target for Macclesfield in the Local Plan was 4250 houses by 2030. Macclesfield is on course to reach 5600+ houses by 2030. There is no justification at all for developing houses on Danes Moss.
  • That said, it is true that as a society we are experiencing a crisis in access to affordable homes. Some of these will have to be new-build so the question then is, where to build? The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England have estimated that there is room for 1.3 million homes on brownfield sites in England alone. There’s no excuse for building on peatlands.
 
 

The development will not affect the Danes Moss SSSI conservation site

          False.

  • The effect of the proposed housing development on the integrity and function of the local SSSI is unknown and a genuine concern. 
  • The most direct likely impacts are through causing alterations in the flow, level and chemistry of water, the prime factors governing the unique properties of a raised bog.  
  • Natural England have issued updated comments (dated 26 January 2022) on application 19/1796M, stating “the application could have potential significant effects on Danes Moss Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)” and that “Natural England is of the view that the environmental significance of this development site has not been fully recognised”.
 
 
 

It’s too late. Outline planning permission was granted in 2019 so we cannot back out of this now. 

False!

There are a few ways in which the Council could stop this project. 

  • The first is for the members of the Strategic Planning Board to reject the reserved matters applications. This would be totally appropriate since each planning application must be judged against the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
  • Even if outline permission has been granted each reserved matters application must be judged against the NPPF. And there is new information that has come to light which shows that any development of the site would be contrary to the NPPF:
    • For example, it is now clear that the site must be recognised as  Annex 1 European habitat that is ‘irreplaceable’ because it is a relic lowland raised bog still capable of restoration.  This should then by definition produce a recommendation for refusal of the reserved matters applications, and be supported by the Strategic Planning Board members. In this scenario there is no way that the Council or individual members could be successfully sued simply for exercising the Council’s right to refuse permission as the independent local planning authority.
    • The second method is for the Council leadership to grow a backbone and tell its private development partner that it is ending the project and that no further planning permissions will be given for any development of the site. 
 
 
 

We’ve only recently realised how important climate change is. 

  • Since 1990 (over 30 years ago) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been publishing reports on the danger of climate change as well as demonstrating that the competent scientists are essentially unanimous that human activity is the cause. If you hear someone saying that ‘we’ve only just realised’ it means that they have only just woken up. And if they are from the council then that’s quite an admission. Aren’t they supposed to be the very best amongst us? Intelligent, well-informed and responsible people? What on earth are they doing in positions of power if they have only just realised how important climate change is?
 
 

We’ve only recently realised how important peat is. We didn’t know when outline permission was granted. 

False.

  • Permission was granted on 17 January 2019. At this time, Cheshire East Council planning department knew lots about the importance of peat.
  • In December 2018, the Strategic Planning Board met to consider a proposal to build on another important peatland – Lindow Moss in Wilmslow (see link here).
  • In the officer’s public report for the meeting the connection between peat and carbon storage is made very clear: “Peatland habitats consequently function as a sink or store of atmospheric carbon. In total, the UK peat resource stores 5071 million tonnes of carbon the equivalent of 35 years of UK emissions.
 

So, which council officers attended this 2018 meeting and must certainly have read the report? Amongst others: Mr Adrian Crowther (as Major Applications-Team Leader) and Mr David Malcolm (as Head of Planning). 

Mr Crowther is the case officer for the planning applications on to develop Danes Moss (which the Council call ‘the South Macclesfield Development Area’). Mr Malcolm is still the Head of Planning and made the decision to grant permission for the development of Danes Moss.

 

FAQs Council Attendees
FAQs Council Carbon Knowledge
 
 

The peat on site is dead. It is emitting more CO2 than it absorbs. 

Misleading / Cynical 

  • This has been one of the Council’s favourite lines. The idea that this justifies development is just mad.
  • The peat is not “dead” but it is no longer growing as new sphagnum growth is generally not occurring. However, this can be reversed through rewetting and restoration. Further, the ‘Peatlands of Cheshire East‘ report was commissioned by the council and is hosted on their website (see link here). Page 5 states that only 1.3% of peatlands in Cheshire East are active carbon sinks. This exposes the ‘peat is dead’ justification as completely cynical.
  • The point is, peatlands are incredibly valuable carbon stores even when they are not active carbon sinks. Building on Danes Moss would destroy forever the chance of restoring the site to a carbon sink and release massive CO2 emissions that would otherwise have stayed underground. 
  • To quantify the current carbon emissions, the dry upper layer of peat and soil will be emitting a small amount of greenhouse gases (mostly methane) as vegetation dies off and decomposition occurs; this is the same for all vegetated areas.
    • The mix of habitats on the proposed development area has been estimated to release 7.7-9.3 tonnes of CO2 equivalent/year.
    • As a comparison, intensive pasture on peatland (the main land use on peat in Cheshire East) emits approximately 27.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent/year.
    • Re-wetting of the peat profile could result in absorption of 0.02 – 0.9 tonnes of CO2 equivalent/year in perpetuity.
CWT Peat Report Extract

There is no peat on site.

  • Go and have a look at the site. If you’re still not convinced all that black, wet, spongy soil is peat then read the geotechnical reports all of which refer to the fact that most of the site is underlain by peat to an average depth of about 2.3 – 2.5m which in places goes down beyond 5m.
 
 

The development will seal the carbon emissions in the ground and stop them leaking out.

  • This is about as absurd as that idea of injecting bleach into your veins to cure COVID.
  • The top layers of the ground on site are emitting CO2 in the same way that any soil does, however as it dries out the peat deposits beneath the top layer will break down and emit more CO2. The only proven way to counteract this is to rewet and restore the site. Adding any concrete to the peat will alter the pH of the peat and increase its breakdown and release more CO2.
  • Suggestions to cap the peat illustrates the Council’s abysmal level of understanding of the properties and importance of peat
  • Simon Caporn, Professor of Ecology and Environment at Manchester Metropolitan University adds,
 

Peat is a carbon store because it has a low rate of decomposition due to its high acidity (pH 3 to 4). In contrast, concrete has a very high pH (>11) and will neutralise the peat acidity and speed up decomposition, releasing carbon dioxide.’ 

 

If we rewet and restore the site we will have to destroy the wet woodland habitat used by willow tits. 

False and totally misleading.

  • The wet woodland is a Priority Habitat in its own right and would be retained in any restoration. There’s no reason to think that it would have to destroyed.
  • A mosaic of habitats exist across the whole Moss, which complement each other and the biodiversity they contain.
  • Simon Caporn, Professor of Ecology and Environment at Manchester Metropolitan University adds, 

 

‘Any plan for maintaining and improving the existing green space for both nature and carbon will, I expect, want to develop a mosaic of habitats, from restoring Sphagnum peatlands in some areas to grasslands in others and wet woodland – the habitat of willow tits – where it is already exists.’

 
 

The site is not suitable for rewetting. 

False.

  • The site can be restored. There is no good reason to think it can’t since the adjoining SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) was in a worse state back in the 1970s when restoration began. At that time, Danes Moss suffered from regular fires because it was so dried out.
  • In other areas arable fields are being restored back to raised mire. Danes Moss would need a lot less work than these areas. Moreover, the Council hold an unpublished report which suggests restoring some of the site to active bog. 
  • Simon Caporn, Professor of Ecology and Environment at Manchester Metropolitan University adds, 
 

‘The UK has a wealth of experience and an enviable International reputation for restoring peatland habitats in a highly cost-effective manner (Andersen et al, 2016). 

In this region are many ongoing restoration projects in both uplands and lowlands where drained and damaged peatlands are being restored. The nearest is the Danes Moss SSSI where restoration work started in the 1970s, Lindow Moss where work commenced recently, while a little further away are Holcroft Moss, Delamere Forest, Chat Moss, Risley Moss, Bowland Fells, Peak District moorlands, Shropshire Meres and Mosses etc. 

These and many others are listed in the IUCN UK Peatland Programme Projects Map.

Each site is different and poses challenges, but there is no reason to suspect that the Danes Moss wider peatland cannot be restored.’

 

 
 

‘New technology’ will allow us to build on the peat without massive carbon emissions.

 

False.

  • There is no modern technology that has ever been used to build houses and roads on top of deep peat in this country. An exception might be some developments on permafrost but this is in the Arctic circle not lowland Cheshire where the peat is not permanently frozen.
  • A couple of techniques have been proposed in technical reports for the Council but they are completely unproven.  A report from 2017 admits that ‘in-situ peat stabilisation‘ would shrink the peat by 20%. Peat shrinkage happens when peat dries out which causes massive carbon emissions.
Peat Report Page Grab
Peat Report Page Grab

 

 

Large areas of wet woodland will be retained and willow tit boxes will be installed as mitigation for habitat loss. 

 
 

Totally inadequate excuse.

  • Willow Tits are our most threatened breeding bird and they need a sufficient area of wet woodland habitat in which to forage to live. This makes their continued presence after any development exceptionally unlikely. The development would destroy most of their habitat on the site. And installing bird boxes for willow tits actually makes things worse because:
    • Willow tits prefer to make their nests in small hollows of tree trunks that they have carved out themselves
    • These boxes would simply be used as extra habitat for competitor species such as Blue Tits and Great Tits. These birds tend to chase Willow Tits out of woodlands and steal their nests. 
 


The landfill site acts as a barrier between the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the development

 

False.

  • A condition of the development on this site is that the developer has to demonstrate that there will be no harm to the Danes Moss SSSI. Natural England have highlighted their major concerns in their recent consultation response.
  • It has been identified that there is a continuous peat layer across the whole area, including under the landfill site, and therefore the whole area is a hydrogeologically connected peatland. Drying out the development site will therefore harm the SSSI (as well as destabilising the landfill site).
 
 

Haven’t the Council said that they don’t own the majority of the land on site?

  • No, the Council is the majority landowner on the development site. 
  • But they might have given you the opposite impression… 
  • In fact, one Council officer claimed that the Council is not the majority land owner on the development site. Several Cheshire East councillors have been led to believe that the council is not the majority landowner.
  •  Publicly, Cheshire East Council keep making the following statement The majority of the development land is under the ownership of a private developer and therefore outside the council’s control.”       See here and  here.
  • However, the Council have clarified this for us, stating:

    ‘55% of SMDA is owned by the council. However, the council is the minority landowner in respect of land proposed for development as most of the council owned land would remain as either playing fields, undeveloped or improved as landscaping/ for ecology.’

  • In any case, we think this is a distraction from the key facts, namely that Cheshire East Council are the lead developer of this disastrous project as well as being the majority landowner.
 
 
 

 

‘Phase 2 Site Investigation Report’ ROC (2017) 

 

 

 

If the council tries to stop the project they will be sued by their private developer partner. 

 
  • This is a possibility. But perhaps the Council could think creatively about how to pay off a private developer without the need for legal battles. Central government funds exist to finance the restoration of peatlands for carbon sequestration. The ‘Nature for Climate Fund’ is just one example. Has the Council considered applying for funding, some of which could be used to pay off the private developers?