Barlow's Beef: Is Lindow Moss the last stand?


Unusually for me I've been ill for almost a month. Twin infections created a raging fever draining every ounce of energy. After three days of lying on the sofa watching Brain Dead Daytime TV (I swear Little Jimmy Krankie appeared at the height of my feverish hallucinations). I ventured outside the house.

It was late afternoon and I spotted a hare darting across a frost-encrusted field. After weeks of feeling dreadful it really lifted my spirits.

It was the same elation I felt after a very exhausting trip to Hong Kong when the exquisite song of a solitary blackbird welcomed me home.

Nature has endless ways of refreshing our flagging spirits. It's a prime ingredient in our quality of life. Sadly, (for her) Mother Nature bestows her gifts upon us free of charge... and it's killing her.

You can't make money from birdsong, water lilies or bluebells BUT you can make fortunes by destroying their habitat. All you need is a plausible excuse.

Suppose you have a vision to transform Cheshire into some vague kind of industrial powerhouse. You could destroy huge swathes of open land on the premise that more jobs mean more houses (and to hell with birds and bees).

You could also claim that first-time buyers desperately need starter homes, acquire the land, then build expensive executive houses (and to hell with first time buyers).

In time fastfood outlets, coffee shops, car showrooms and retail parks would replace, fields, streams and woodland eliminating plants, birds, animals and anything else dependent upon a natural habitat.

This is already happening. In London, where sparrow numbers fell by 60% between 1994 and 2004. I didn't dream that up... it's a fact reported by the RSPB.

The fiscal plans of politicians always assume growth. Population growth, industrial growth, commercial growth ad infinitum. They cannot survive without it. Growth means increased civic prestige, increased revenues and, boy, do they love that. But what about us?

Do we want 'growth' and all that it entails'?

Are we prepared to be part of an increasing urban society sharing fewer and fewer open spaces? Will more fast food joints make up for the loss of a bluebell wood? Will another retail park be ample compensation for a favourite walk? Are we happy to see a bridle paths replaced by a link road?

Cheshire East does not want to ask you these questions in case (heaven forbid) you answer no. In which case all their grandiose plans for transforming Cheshire into an industrial powerhouse go the same way as the Lyme Green debacle.

If you, the residents, were to insist your woodlands, fields and open spaces were of more importance to your quality of life than a huge estate, retail park, and industrial hub Cheshire East would be apoplectic.

Before you could say pomposity they'd be threatening massive job losses, homelessness, school closures, plague, famine and pestilence until you endorsed their 'growth' plan.

Saltersley Common Preservation Society were sufficiently concerned about peat extraction at Lindow Moss they commissioned a consultant to carry out a comprehensive survey and report on the consequences.

His conclusions state: "Peat extraction is simply devastating. What should be a raised mire with dragonflies, water voles, lizards and birds like nightjars, stonechats, etc is basically just destroyed."

Croghan Peat Industries Ltd of Meare, Somerset purchased the Moss in 1997-8. In December 2014 they submitted two planning applications, to build 14 detached houses on part of Lindow Moss.

So there you have it another irreplaceable area of ancient habitat destroyed to assuage the insatiable drive for 'growth.'

Do you remember the 80's when politicians told us 'greed was good'? Doesn't look so good now does it?

So here's my question: we are a large population living on a small island, we clearly have a finite amount of open land. If we continue to push for 'growth' what happens when we have no open spaces left?

What sort of Cheshire will our children and grandchildren inherit or will it all just be Greater Manchester?

Sometimes you have to fight for what you hold dear.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Barlow's Beef, Vic Barlow


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Wednesday 25th November 2015 at 9:10 am
Agree with every word. The excuses made to destroy the countryside are not even "plausible" when you consider the amount of brownfield land available in the borough. Footpaths in Wilmslow, which once crossed open countryside, have become narrow passageways enclosed on both sides and hidden on housing estates, which only the foolhardy now take. Alternatively, they are converted into roads for "emergency use". Meanwhile, office block after office block stands empty, and given the erratic nature of the economy are likely to do so for a long time.
Maria Quin
Wednesday 25th November 2015 at 2:28 pm
Vic - spot on as always. Also agree with Jackies very valid points too. Thing is - what can we, the seemingly irrelevant residents, actually do to reverse this really destructive trend? How can we switch off the developers and councils selective hearing devices? Written multiple objections to planning applications seem to be ignored, irrespective of the number submitted. Certainly, something needs to be done. Just wish I knew what!
Simon Worthington
Wednesday 25th November 2015 at 4:39 pm
Careful Vic, one or two around will fully support building all over Lindow (and everywhere else possible) even if the houses would sink.
Another council stitch up. "We promised they could continue etc..." and reminds me of the good Dr. Gibson and a similar agreement which meant a road of perfectly good houses were knocked down and his empty overgrown yard available for some more of our old pal's offices.
Sandra Cox
Wednesday 25th November 2015 at 4:53 pm
Maria - the only way we, as you so rightly say, 'seemingly irrelevant residents' could have changed things was at the ballot box this year but that did not happen so now we are reaping what the majority voted for.
Anthony Evans
Wednesday 25th November 2015 at 5:36 pm
Sandra, I do believe this was a point Vic made earlier this year. I have been writing on behalf of SCPS, first to Cheshire County Council and now Cheshire East, for 15 years, mostly with no effect. Even the Councillor for the area has not replied to any of my letters and at the last count I had sent six.
What has kept us going is being told by counsel that we are right and CE are wrong.
Pete Taylor
Wednesday 25th November 2015 at 7:04 pm
A sorry scene of destruction, this once picturescue haven for wildlife now looks like a WW2 bomb-site, absolutely barren.
And what a long-running saga, one might have hoped that the Ombudsman's criticisms back in 2013 might have moved CEC, in particular our local Councillors, to take action, seemingly not.
Sandra Cox
Wednesday 25th November 2015 at 8:13 pm
Anthony - yes I remember Vic making this point and his efforts before the election to warn people of the consequences of voting Conservative in Cheshire East. It is sad his wise words went unheeded and that your and others long experience of being ignored is continuing. The days when justice was done and Neil Hamilton lost his seat over impropriety are long gone it would seem.
Pippa Jones
Wednesday 25th November 2015 at 8:52 pm
Thank you to Tony and the SCPS for their efforts in uncovering the awful reality of the destruction of this vitally important area of scientific, archaeological, cultural and ecological history. Next week the climate change talks start, and the reality is that restoration of the Moss would be the greatest contribution we could make as a community to global warming; mosses absorb a great deal more carbon than forests. A restored moss could also be a place of recreation, for cycling, horse riding and walking, a place to mark one of our most famous ancestors, Lindow Man, and a place of education for our children (and us all!). Vic is quite right that open spaces and trees are vital for our mental and physical health, and while we all agree that more houses must be built, building must be sustainable and include wild and open spaces where we can benefit from fresh air and trees. I am sure that if CEC came up with a proposal to restore the Moss, there would be a great many people locally who would support it, for all our futures.
Vic Barlow
Wednesday 25th November 2015 at 10:08 pm
The way to reclaim local democracy is to start at the ballot box and we failed miserably.

Why would any council routinely reelected worry about what voters think about anything?

In order to create a sea-change you need LARGE numbers of motivated residents prepared to make a nuisance of themselves. Polite little protests just don't register.

In 2001 the old Borough Council contrived with a large retail chain to destroy Dane Moss ( a place of natural beauty) in Macclesfield and replace it with a retail park.According to MBC it was too late to turn back. The developers would, we were told, sue and possibly bankrupt the borough.
Residents did not believe them and marched in force (approx 400 strong) to the planning meeting to see for themselves exactly which way each councillor would vote. Faced with such overwhelming objection and the fear of having their vote witnessed by residents councillors they rejected the plan.

All MBC's threats and insistence that there was no turning back came to nought and (surprise surprise) the developers did not sue.

That's the level of participation needed to make any impact. Simply returning the same council over and over again creates the disdain for local opinion of which we all complain.
Rick Andrews
Friday 27th November 2015 at 9:57 am
Whilst I agree absolutely that the habitat should be preserved and restored, I think it is important to note that the planning application is to build houses on the current processing building and yard area. Peat extraction and processing on the site is not new (remember Fina Peat in the 1960's anyone?) This part with ramshackle buildings of all shapes and sizes has been an industrial site for over 65 years so i believe the planning application should be approved as it will end the peat extraction and replace the buildings with houses.

By the way,peat extraction has been going on in this area for 100's of years. In fact the area of Paddock Hill was once all peat beds as witnessed by the long narrow field boundaries where each resident had the right to dig peat across a 6 or 12 yard frontage, exposing the soil beneath. (these boundaries are disappearing as new occupiers destroy hedges and delicate drainage ditch systems)

I agree with Vic, let's save the remaining habitat.
Anthony Evans
Saturday 28th November 2015 at 11:07 am
Unfortunately Rick, the uncontrolled extraction has gone so deep it has interfered with the water table - as predicted by ECUS in 1998. The whole site and much of the surroundings will take around 10 years to settle and in that period it would not be safe to build. As our hydrologist said, she certainly wouldn't buy a house there.
Also, the sums don't add up. It would cost many thousands of pounds to restore the site, more than Croghan would get back in housing. Go to Duedil to see for yourself the financial state of the company.
And judging by the way they have treated the site, would you really trust them to do as they say?
Rick Andrews
Sunday 29th November 2015 at 3:50 pm
The proposal for houses is not on the area where peat is currently being extracted, it is where the current dilapidated buildings and yard are located. Regarding the proposal to stop extraction if the houses are built that could easily be enforced through the planning approval as a binding condition. At least further extraction would stop as I am afraid the situation is a no win, whatever happens.
Anthony Evans
Monday 30th November 2015 at 9:32 am
The water table is affected for a large area around the excavated site which includes the yard. A distance of up to a mile has been mentioned.
Newgate Kennels are not in the extraction area but the land around is subsiding, exposing the foundations which were built on piles. The subsidence causes the services (electricity, drains etc.) to be pulled above ground.
This happened to the houses at Chat Moss until Eric Pickles put a stop to it.