The Communities Secretary will decide on the fate of Chat Moss when he considers whether or not to allow peat extraction to continue there until 2025. I have spoken against the proposals for continued extraction, at the Public Inquiry now taking place.
Salford councillors made a unanimous decision last June not to allow an extension to the licence for peat extraction, and I fully supported that decision. The Council had stated its intention to return Chat Moss to its original form as a natural habitat for wildlife and to end peat extraction.
In early 2010 I visited the peat extraction site off Cutnook Lane in Irlam with a group of local residents and campaigners. They had organised a walk to protest at the idea of extending the period when peat extraction was allowed. People on the walk were horrified or even angry when they saw the impact that the peat extraction was having on this greenbelt land – often described as a “green lung” for Salford.
I spoke at the Inquiry because local people told me they want peat extraction to stop and they want to see this land restored for community use. Local residents also spoke about issues caused by peat extraction. We heard how narrow local roads and bridal paths at Chat Moss are unsafe for walkers, children going to school or people riding bikes or horses because 38-tonne articulated vehicles thunder past on the narrow roads.
We also heard how peat milling has robbed wildlife of its habitat. Some rare bird species do use the area but are in danger of disappearing from Chat Moss because the mechanised peat extraction threatens them. Wildlife like this could flourish if the peat extraction at Chat Moss stopped, as it was meant to do over a year ago.
I hope the Government Inspector and the Minister will now back the decision of Salford councillors to end peat extraction and allow Chat Moss to flourish again as an area for farming and for local people to enjoy.