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Saturday, 23 August 2014

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Rare Cumbrian peat bog to be restored

Owners could be forced to sell some of their land as part of a project to restore one of Europe’s rarest wildlife habitats.

Peat bog photo
Alasdair Brock at Bolton Fell Moss peat bog

Natural England has drawn up plans to return Bolton Fell Moss to having a peat forming bog surface within 30 years.

Details of progress being made on the scheme – which will lead to the closure of a peat moss works which employs 80 people – were discussed at a public meeting in Hethersgill.

The site is owned by a variety of people, and compulsory purchase orders are one tool the organisation could use to get hold of the land.

This was one subject brought up in a presentation by Alasdair Brock, Natural England’s senior reserve manager in north Cumbria. The agency is hoping to submit a full planning application for its scheme in the next few months.

“We need your input,” he told the audience. “Positive or negative, it is all useful.”

Options available to acquire the land include signing management agreements with the owners and negotiating a lease or sale.

If these do not succeed though, the agency can resort to compulsory purchase orders.

Mr Brock described these as “a last resort”.

It is not clear who owns some of the territory and it is likely Natural England will take legal steps to get hold of these areas. If the owners come forward in the future, they will be compensated.

William Sinclair Holdings plant at the moss will close as a result of the restoration work.

Mr Brock explained that the site has been singled out for repair because of European laws.

This obliges the British Government to protect degraded peat bogs that could be restored to their former glory.

Mr Brock said what was described as the “favourable condition” was when the surface would be covered in moss known as sphagnum.

Natural England, which has designated the moss as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), will carry out a number of measures to achieve this.

This will include cutting down trees in some parts of the site, raising the water level, creating new drains and possibly adding new vegetation.

It also wants to protect wildlife which makes use of the area, including roe deer, red squirrels and bats.

Mr Brock said sites taken over by Natural England were usually given the status of National Nature Reserves.

It hopes to have a planning application submitted for this project by spring.

Mr Brock added that Natural England will attempt to include people’s comments in the submission.

He also said once the site was completed Natural England would need support from people living nearby to alert them to issues with the moss, such as vandalism, fire or flooding.

“Local people would be our eyes and ears.” he said.

After the meeting, Stephen Lund, the team leader of Natural England’s Solway, Border and Eden land management team, told The Cumberland News he was pleased with how it had gone.

He said: “I think it went well, I think there were some positive comments back and we have tried to deal with everybody’s concerns that they may have had. I hope people will come back to us and give us their comments.”

These need to be in by Friday, February 15 and should be sent to Mr Brock at Unit 2, Kirkbride Airfield, Wigton, Cumbria, CA7 5HP, e-mailed to alasdair.brock@naturalengland.co.uk or submitted via www.naturalengland.org.uk.

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