RSPB Call For Objections to Walshaw Moor Track
Saturday, 31 March 2018
The RSPB is seeking help to put a stop to a planning application that could seriously damage an area of blanket bog, a rare and precious deep peat habitat that takes thousands of years to form. The details of how to take action are at the end of this piece.
Healthy blanket bogs can provide great benefits both for people and wildlife. They help tackle climate change by locking up carbon - which becomes harmful when released to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, improve water quality by acting as a natural filtration system, help reduce flooding on lower ground by absorbing and releasing rainfall slowly and help threatened moorland birds including curlews, golden plovers and dunlins.
In 2012, Walshaw Moor Estate in the South Pennines put in a request for a new road across an area of deep peat blanket bog on their grouse shooting estate. Natural England duly assessed the application and refused consent. Natural England's Director at that time said, "The appropriate assessment concluded that consent should not be given to this proposed track because of its likely significant effect on habitat features integral to the integrity of the site….Following review, I agree with this conclusion, primarily because the track would cross a significant area of deep peat. Consent is therefore withheld."
Natural England considers a peat depth over 40cm to be blanket bog, which would have taken about 4000 years to build up. NE's own 2013 scientific evidence review concluded building tracks across deep peat can damage the habitat by altering its drainage, compressing it and making it unstable.
However, Walshaw Moor Estate has just submitted a request to build a new road, in exactly the same area, but this time Natural England assessed the impact and has consented the new road. Having received consent from Natural England the Estate has now applied for planning permission to the two local planning authorities; Pendle and Calderdale.
To our surprise, it appears this time Natural England was satisfied the track will not damage the blanket bog. The Estate surveyed the peat depths along the full 5.4 km length of the proposed road and found that only 680m was on peat deeper than 40cm. But a concerned member of the public visited the route of the road recently their peat depth measurements and found that entire 5.4km length is blanket bog. Understandably, this has raised serious concerns in our minds which we think the planning authorities need to get to the bottom of to make sure precious blanket bog habitat is not damaged. This includes the blanket bog adjacent to the track which might be affected.
Decision based on incorrect information?
We're profoundly concerned that Natural England’s recent assessment was based on incorrect information.
Natural England also decided there would be no impacts on moorland birds in that area; dunlin, curlew, golden plover. This was because the estate said the road would only be used in an emergency during the bird breeding season. We think there are other things to consider, scientific research has shown that birds are displaced by moorland tracks to a distance of about 500m. So this road will have a corridor of impact 1km wide along its length. Even if vehicles are only allowed in an emergency a road will encourage more visitors into a previously undisturbed area and can only increase the fire risk. It is worth noting that the area of the road has only seen one wild fire in the past 35 years.
Make your views known
The new road straddles two local authority boundaries; Calderdale in Yorkshire and Pendle in Lancashire, and planning applications have been lodged at both with a deadline for comment of 3 April.
You can let Pendle and Calderdale know your views on a new road through what is supposed to be one of the most highly protected sites in Britain by commenting on each of the applications on the Councils’ websites.
Visit Pendle Council’s planning portal here and entering reference 18/0143/FUL in the box.
Visit Calderdale Council here using reference 18/00237/FUL - you may have to register or log in.
Key points for objectors
See also: Upper Calder Valley Plain Speaker website which provides this useful summary of key reasons to object