Cheshire East Council’s ‘Ambition for All’ policy document lays out a Sustainable Community Strategy stating, “Our goal is to make continuous environmental improvements to our local area”. This does not line-up with the council’s proposal for the South Macclesfield Development Area, which would destroy one of Macclesfield’s most important natural assets. Read our article for a broad consideration of peat in the UK and why this organic rich, black gold is of the utmost importance.
Around the world there is an increased recognition of the environmental value of peatlands and a concerted effort to restore these habitats, including in the Peak District. Danes Moss is the largest, and highest, lowland raised bog in Cheshire and largest of only two wetlands in the local area (the second Lindow Moss). The area includes Danes Moss Nature Reserve 13.4-hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest, recognising the site as one of the scarcest and most threatened habitats in the UK. Danes Moss area represents around 1.25 million cubic metres of peat which locks up between 70,000-75,000 tonnes of carbon. The development would remove vast quantities of peat along with lowering the water table, drying out the peatland would result in the oxidation of carbon (into CO2) in the remaining peat in the ground. This could release up to 250,000 tonnes of CO2 which has been locked into the peat over the last 12,000 years since the glaciers retreated in the last ice age. This represents nearly 10% of the annual CO2 emissions from the entire borough of Cheshire East (250,000 = 9.9% of 2,518,000*). In contrast, the peatlands in their current condition are a carbon sink.
South Macclesfield Development Area site is only 70 meters at the closest point from Danes Moss Nature Reserve comprising of the same raised bog lowland ecosystem. In contrast with global efforts and the councils own policy to preserve peatlands, Cheshire East Council’s proposal would result in the destruction of 55 hectares (136 acres or 77 football fields) of Dane Moss’s the deepest peat deposits in Cheshire. The proposal will provide 950 homes, a link road, 40,000 sq. ft of retail, 5,380 sq. ft of offices and 100,000 sq. ft of warehousing.
Why Protect our Peatlands?
Mosses and peatlands are characteristic of the landscape of much of Britain due to our wet and cool climate upland moors and lowland bogs represent vast areas of peat. “More than 130 peat- or water-filled basins (mosses and meres) occur in an area of 1600 km2 of glacial drift in north Cheshire. There is considerable indirect evidence to suggest that many of the smaller steep-sided basins represent kettle-hollows formed at the margins of stagnating ice-sheets of the last (Weichsel) glaciation, and that others represent subsidence hollows formed by local solution of underlying Saliferous Beds.” (J.H Tallis, 1973).
There are three main types of peatlands in the UK: blanket bog, raised bog and fenland. To give you an idea just how boggy it is here, the UK has 13% of all the world’s blanket bog! The UK is home to nearly 3 million hectares of peatlands - one of the world's top ten countries for peatland area. Fun fact Cheshire, is has been labelled pond capital of Europe with the highest density of ponds in North West Europe!
Peatlands are the UK’s largest land store of carbon, holding three times as much as woodlands. Healthy peatlands capture CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Due to wet conditions, plants (such as Sphagnum Moss) that grow on healthy peatlands do not fully decompose. Consequently, they do not release carbon which would otherwise be returned to the atmosphere as CO2.
Peatlands store vast quantities of carbon – ‘locking in’ an estimated 3.2 billion tonnes in the UK alone. It is well documented that human activities, such as fossil-fuel burning, are contributing to the raising CO2 levels in the atmosphere and leading to climate change. Where peat continues to form, its ability to offset the effects of such pollution are increased.
Peatlands cover 10% of the UK land area. Unfortunately, 80% of these have been historically managed in a way which has left them in a damaged state. Practises that include controlled burning and grazing to support game birds, extraction of peat for horticultural purposes and as a fuel, draining for agricultural and commercial forest purposes, have subjected peatlands to exponential habitat change and as a result many peatbogs have experienced severe erosions, with only ~20% remaining in a near natural state. The erosion of peat with high carbon content could enhance losses of terrestrial carbon in many regions. Such degradation has led to a negative effect on net carbon balance, demonstrating the ability of peatlands to shift from carbon sink to carbon source. Peat removal takes away the living layer of soil exposing peat to oxidisation and loss of carbon, as a result of a lowered water table, neighbouring bogs can also become degraded. Peatlands store around 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon, but in their current degraded condition they also release the equivalent of 23 million tonnes of CO2 every year. That's 5% of the UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
In the UK peat has been accumulating since the end of the last ice age, for around 12,000 years. However, peat takes a very long time to form; it takes one year for 1mm of peat to develop and for one metre, approximately 1000 years. At that rate, the 10 metres of peat found at Danes Moss has been accumulating for 10,000 years. The council survey Peatlands of Cheshire East; an Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Biodiversity stated that, ‘To avoid potentially permanent emissions the extraction and development of peatlands should be stopped immediately across Cheshire East.’ The council should lead by example, follow their guidelines and further recognise that the destruction of peat habitats will not potentially but certainly cause permanent emissions of carbon which has been locked into the peat over the course of millennia.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust describe the plans as
" ...one of the most environmentally damaging schemes ever proposed in Cheshire East and the likely destruction of natural capital (biodiversity and stored carbon) at this scale is unprecedented in recent decades within the Cheshire region."
Are we really be considering the irreversible destruction of this precious natural habitat? Here at Fruits of the Forage we support the people of Macclesfield in the fight against this abominable assault on our town’s natural habitats. To Cheshire East Council we ask; What sense do you see in destroying the nature which surrounds our town? How will this improve the lives of Macclesfield residents? The council claim ‘The site offers the opportunity to create a sustainable urban extension’ - they’re not kidding anyone. Save Danes Moss Facebook page is disseminating information about the damage to the peat which innovative construction methods required for the development onto the moss; resulting in an expected 20% peat loss.
In recent history there has been a tram way, powered by horse or man, which was used to remove cut peat to the main train line. Macclesfield and the surrounding area have an abundance of prehistoric monuments which are especially prevalent in the area around the Dane. Unfortunately, little remains of many of these mounds, but a presence can still be felt, and beneath the surface lies the remains of ancient Celtic funeral rites. On the Leek Road, just outside Macclesfield is the Fools Nook; rumour has it that this was the last strong hold for the druids, who the locals called fools, and the nook being the bend in the road. Here’s at extract from Prehistoric Cheshire by Victoria and Paul Morgan.
“This Early Bronze Age barrow lies at 160m (550ft) above sea level, on the edge of the geological boundary between the Peaks and the Cheshire Plain. It is not positioned on the highest point in the landscape but overlooks the modern Macclesfield-to-Leek road, the Macclesfield Canal and the Cow Brook in the valley below which once housed a shallow but wide lake in prehistoric times. It forms part of a multi-phased ritual complex around Oakgrove, consisting of a possible henge to the east and a later Bronze Age round barrow and possible ceremonial avenue on Broad Oak Farm to the north-east.”
The source of Cow Brook is Dane’s Moss which would have been the large shallow lake mentioned here, which has undergone a process of terrestrialization turning the mere into a moss. Considering the proximity of prehistoric monument’s to Cow Book, could we cautiously suggest that the earlier lake of Dane Moss could have been of importance as an area for food, resources or perhaps ritual to the prehistoric people in the area. There are also numerous stones on Wincle Minn the dominant ridge over the Cheshire Plains to the east with large burial mounds, the Bullstones and Clulows Cross and further up the Dane Valley reaching the mysterious Lud’s Church; much mystery abounds the area around the Dane.
Now just think that the other smaller local wetland Lindow Moss has revealed the 2,000 year old body of an Iron Age human sacrifice, the best preserved human body found in Britain. The evidence has suggested this was an Irish Druid Prince who was willingly sacrificed during a time of great upheaval, as the Romans battled the tribes of Britain, in a last ditch effort, it seems, the druids sacrificed a person of great value to the underworld, through the gate way of the peat bog. It is the time of the Druids last stand, the intellectuals priestly class of Druids united the tribes of Britain in resistance against the Romans. Boudica comes from East Anglia and sacks St Albans massacring the Roman population. The Druids are retreating to their sacred strong hold and important transport route on Anglesey. Eventually twenty thousand Roman soldiers massacre the druids on Anglesey and return south to face Boudica which results in another massacre of the native people.
Now imagine what could lie preserved deep in the Peat of Dane Moss, perhaps further clues to the beliefs and customs of the original Britons, as they made their last stand against the ensuing Roman invasion.
SPECIES AT RISK
Danes Moss is the home and hunting ground for the following list of protected species: the Alcathoe, Brown long-eared, and Pipistrelle bats; Badgers, Common lizards, Common toads, Barn owls, the priority species - the Small heath butterfly, and the red-listed Willow tit (the UK’s second most threatened species).
SAVE DANES MOSS
The SSSI and the development site are part of the same Danes Moss lowland raised bog ecosystem. This type of habitat is one of the rarest on the planet and holds huge amounts of carbon.
Macclesfield Town Council have objected to this development due to:
1. Lack of pedestrian paths and cycleways in the development,
2. Increased congestion on already congested roads,
3. The removal of mature woodland and hedgerows,
4. Risk to flooding in the area following the development,
5. The removal of peat from the site contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework and Cheshire East’s Local Plan Strategy.
Now it's up to Cheshire East Council to reject it.
We need your help to stop this development. Here's what YOU can do.
- Comment on application number 19/1796M on the planning portal, easily accessible via Cheshire east website to make planning officers aware of your concerns
- Write to the members of the Cheshire East Strategic Planning Board with your concerns. These are their email addresses:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Send an email via the Cheshire Wildlife Trust https://action.wildlifetrusts.org/page/98799/action/1?fbclid=IwAR1yFBssMD7y_UC7IMH-06ckyCfkSzJqSgmoheb9DZY91Fz4oS4ETlBE5-M
- Sign the Change Petition https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-destruction-of-danes-moss-peatland-for-housing-and-retail-development?fbclid=IwAR1Pp4mz7_qOEAz7XJqmgRjzmDtlPS736MBdRNMSiYwr4mjTHrhDCAVfwRw
OR best of all send an original email with your thoughts to one of the councillor emails above.
**PUBLIC MEETING** on Danes Moss (organised by Danes Moss Facebook Group)
** SUNDAY 20 FEBRUARY, 2pm **
Come to see Danes Moss for yourself. Join our walking tour of the site. Speak with others about what's at stake here. Tell us what Danes Moss means to YOU!
Get photos of the beautiful woods, open space and mosses. Invite your local councillor.
Easy car parking and places for bicycles nearby. Easy access from public transport (see below)
List of sources
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpVaDChf7ZQ – Ian Coppack on Dane Moss development
The Terrestrialization of Lake Basins in North Cheshire, with Special Reference to the Development of a `Schwingmoor' Structure, J. H. Tallis