Save Danes Moss

Cheshire and Warrington Sustainable and Inclusive Growth Commission disregards peatland as urgent priority for CO2 Sequestration
Sustainable Growth Commission Report Cover

We are disappointed to see the final report of the ‘Towards a Sustatainable and Inclusive Cheshire and Warrington’ document producced by the Cheshire and Warrington Sustainable and Inclusive Growth Commission regards our peatlands as not a priority due to the small percentage of land they cover. Here are some quotes from the report:

Sustainable Growth Final Report Quote 1

Insetting-Offsetting/ Natural Capital
Recommendations for local authorities:

• Increase the volume of Hedgerows (encourage others to increase the size of existing ones) and restore bog (mire) habitats on Council owned land and via planning policy. • Adopt the target of initiating 500,000 tonnes of CO2 sequestered in trees and hedges and 100,000 tonnes in our soils by 2030. Peatland is also very important to address but is a very small percentage of the area and the Commission considers the increasing biodiversity in nature, species and improving our soil is our initial focus.

Page 20, Final Report, Sept 2022

The area at Danes Moss at risk of development contains more than 220,000 tonnes of CO2. As can be seen this one small area of peat contains nearly half the target CO2 sequestration from hedges and trees or more than double that for soils for the whole of the Cheshire and Warrington area (not just Cheshire East). The supporting document Cheshire and Warrington Natural Capital Audit and Investment Plan states bog as 0.42% of natural capital by land area but unfortunately does not state what the percentage of carbon this area stores. As we have already publicised 220,000 tonnes of CO2 is nearly 10% of the CO2 output in a year for Cheshire East, this is not an insignificant amount and should not be deprioritised based on the simple calculation of land coverage alone. It is also worth noting at 55ha this is about 6% of the area classed as bog, imagine the carbon sequestration that could be achieved if treated as priority regardless of the ‘small percentage’ of land coverage.
In addition there is also the recommendation to ‘restore bog (mire) habitats on Council owned land and via planning policy’. The Danes Moss proposed development area is 55% council owned land and so should be considered of prime importance for carbon storage and sequestration.

It is noted on page 12 of the Cheshire and Warrington Natural Capital Audit and Investment Plan technical report the carbon storage capacity is part of the highest category in the area covered (marked as red) just to the west of the areas of upland peat on the edge of the peak district.

This is a description of carbon storage capacity from the same document (Page 11) explaining what it is and why it is important:

Carbon storage capacity indicates the amount of carbon stored naturally in soil and vegetation. Carbon storage and sequestration is seen as increasingly important as we move towards a low-carbon future. The importance of managing land as a carbon store has been recognised by the UK government, and land use has a major role to play in national carbon accounting. Changing land use from one type to another can lead to major changes in carbon storage, as can restoration of degraded habitats.

Page 12, Technical Report, Sept 2021

In it’s current un-restored state the surface vegetation 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 CO 2 equivalent/year. As a comparison, intensive pasture on peatland (the main land use on peat in Cheshire East) emits approximately 27.5tCO 2 e/year. Restoration via re-wetting of the peat profile could result in absorption of 0.02 – 0.9tCO 2 e/year in perpetuity.

It is highlighted in the ‘Key strengths of C&W LEP’ on page 59 of the final document that peatlands are correctly classed as irreplaceable:

There are numerous areas of irreplaceable natural habitat such as ancient woodland, glacial meres and peatlands. Furthermore, there are important green corridors such as the Manchester Ship Canal, the River Mersey, the Bridgewater Canal and the Transpennine Way. The region is adjacent to the Peak District National Park.

Page 59, Final Report, Sept 2022

The peat at Danes Moss has taken 6000 years or more to form and therefore must not be destroyed as it is not something that can be regenerated. Sadly in the current planning application process this is something that Cheshire East Council have not acknowledged even though the whole of the proposed development area is classed as BAP Priority Habitat lowland raised peat bog.

Within the ‘threats to natural capital and the minerals sector’ on page 57 these points are listed:

• Threats to biodiversity • Proposals for new development will only be permitted where any adverse impacts on a range of criteria is avoided or can be appropriately mitigated

Page 57, Final Report, Sept 2022

The Addendum ES for the Danes Moss development is yet to be updated for the reserved matters (as of 19/10/2022) following on from the deficient outline planning document. The Save Danes Moss campaign has found and highlighted over 60 species with some form of protection using the proposed development area (including nationally rare and declining species such as Willow Tit and Dingy Skipper Butterfly) and a total of over 100 across the whole Danes Moss peatland. This level of biodiversity is important at a county and a national level and cannot be adequately mitigated for.
Natural England in their objection stated “…major ground stabilisation works are required which could have a devastating effect on the hydrology of the whole area”. As well as ignoring the threat to biodiversity and peat within the proposed development area there is still no clear study that has been made available by Cheshire East Council regarding the impact on the adjacent SSSI (Site of Special Scientific interest).

Opportunities to improve outcomes through enhanced natural capital in the environmental management sector • Restoring lost habitats • Restoration of land • Reducing GHG emissions • Biodiversity and environmental net gain

Page 60, Final Report, Sept 2022

All four of these selected bullet points are more than relevant to Danes Moss. The southern part of the moss which is now the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and Cheshire Wildlife Trust reserve was agricultural fields only a few decades ago and it is now a fully functioning lowland raised peat bog covered in multiple species of Sphagnum moss which at the key species for carbon sequestration. This provides both a blueprint and unquestionable evidence that the proposed area of development could become a carbon sink once more reducing the impact of our greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition to this it is one of the most biodiverse areas left in Cheshire East and is nationally important for species vulnerable to extinction in the UK such as Dingy Skipper butterfly and Willow Tit. Studies by the Save Danes Moss Community group have recorded nearly 1000 species across the whole moss including many with protections (as described above). This must be one of the premier sites in the county for achieving biodiversity and environmental net gain.

A greener Cheshire and Warrington where we help nature recover and biodiversity to flourish and enjoy all the benefits this will bring

Page 6, Final Report, Sept 2022

Once again, as a headline statement, how does the environmental destruction on the proposed development area fit in with such a headline statement? If this development went ahead is this not simply classic greenwashing where publicity is completely at odds with reality?

By reversing the decline of Cheshire’s natural environment and biodiversity and enhance climate resilience, connecting people and nature as part of our natural health service, improving access for all.

Page 18, Final Report, Sept 2022

Our vision in conjunction with Cheshire Wildlife Trust gives a clear illustration of how Danes Moss could be a real jewel in reversing biodiversity declines, combatting climate change providing that natural health service that people in Cheshire East are wanting. A development like this on majority council owned land would be an unforgivable betrayal of what is really needed.

Moving to sustainable and regenerative agriculture with a focus on reducing carbon emissions, increasing renewables, and increasing sequestration, whilst expanding woodland, restoring grassland and bog (mire habitats), and enhancing biodiversity (including rewilding of appropriate land) is essential to addressing climate change and environmental degradation and will also improve the quality of life for our residents who can make the most of our natural capital.

Page 18, Final Report, Sept 2022

Lowland raised peat bogs disproportionately punch well above their weight with regard to climate change and biodiversity and due to them being irreplaceable habitat it is astounding from the quote at the top of this page they are not also a priority. Danes Moss took 6000 years to form, if destroyed in the next few years we cannot simply reverse that decision. Once it has gone it has gone and we will lose the vast amounts of carbon stored within it as a carbon store, its sequestration abilities and the precious biodiversity that exists on it.

The Commission has established four strategic projects or ‘big-ticket’ items relating to inclusive economy that it considers are the most deliverable initially to achieve meaningful progress, key point 3 is:

3. Addressing the nature crisis (covering species, biodiversity, carbon sequestration and people’s access to nature) by using a biodiversity net gain plus approach on top of the Local Nature Recovery Strategy to be delivered at a subregional level through a refreshed Local Nature Partnership strategy, to include climate change mitigation/adaptation approaches. To adopt the ambition to go over and above statutory requirements.

Page 10, Final Report, Sept 2022

This is a key priority… so what action will this report lead to? The development area at Danes Moss would tick all boxes for this and would also safeguard the survival and resilience of the rest of the moss to store carbon and maintain our biodiversity for the future.

Come on Cheshire and Warrington Sustainable and Inclusive Growth Commission don’t sell us all short with your proposed move ‘Towards a Sustainable and Inclusive Cheshire and Warrington’ by continuing to allow landscape scale destruction of our natural heritage and on land that is majority council owned.

References

The ‘Towards a Sustainable and Inclusive Cheshire and Warrington’ final report from October 2022 can be found here:

https://cheshireandwarrington.com/what-we-do/sustainability/sustainable-and-inclusive-growth-commission

Also referenced: C&W Natural Capital Investment Plan: Natural capital audit & policy analysis, September 2021

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