Chancellor backs Cheshire calls for gardening peat ban
CHESHIRE Wildlife Trust has welcomed the launch of a government consultation which looks to phase out the use of peat in all horticultural sectors in the UK.
The announcement by Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon calls for the elimination of peat from the amateur gardeners market by 2020, and its use by all gardeners, growers and procurers by 2030.
It has been backed by Cheshire MP the Rt. Hon. George Osborne, who says: “Having seen for myself the wildlife that can flourish in peatland habitats such as those found at the Wildlife Trusts nature reserve in my own Cheshire constituency, I support the call by Defra to see a reduction in the use of peat in gardens and horticulture, and the ambitious but necessary target for peat to no longer being used at all by 2030 at the latest, in turn securing a future for the wildlife found in these habitats.”
The UK currently uses three million cubic metres of peat every year for horticulture, with almost three quarters used by amateur gardeners and the rest by professional growers. Peat extraction continues at a number of locations in Cheshire, with only a single remaining site not affected by cutting – Holcroft Moss.
Peatlands are one of the most threatened habitats in the UK, with several highly-specialised plants and animals thriving within them. Large- scale extraction of peat has a number of effects, crucially in changing how water is stored within the habitat – with the drying-out of peatlands at the heart of the decline of many species such as the carnivorous sundew plant, which relies on constant damp conditions.
Extraction of peat also contributes to carbon dioxide emissions, with healthy peatlands actually storing CO2 within them as carbon ‘sinks’, helping to reduce the greenhouse effect that contributes to climate change.
As peat forms over thousands of years, its use is not considered sustainable and it cannot be readily replaced or recreated quickly.
Paul Wilkinson, head of living landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “We believe that extracting peat is an unsustainable practice, both because of its effects on wildlife and in terms of climate change.”
The consultation closes on Friday March 11 2011 and can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/peat/index.htm