Lindow Moss is historically and ecologically unique, much loved by local people, and became particularly important this year when many of us walked, ran or cycled there for our daily exercise. It was a place of solace and tranquillity for hundreds of residents until – in mid-June – heavy machinery returned to remove peat.
There was significant concern in the community that this was a recommencement of commercial peat extraction, although residents were informed by the owners that this was necessary work prior to the planned restoration of Lindow Moss to a raised bog habitat. In light of this confusion, Transition Wilmslow launched its Save Lindow Moss campaign to try to inform people of what was going on and to find out more about what people really value about the Moss. Residents' questions were put directly to the ecologist in charge of the restoration, and these along with the responses can be viewed here.
In order to canvass opinion, Transition Wilmslow surveyed 431 people, both in-person and online, between 12th July and 16th August. Overall, 99% of respondents said that they wanted clarity from Cheshire East Council (CEC) on whether restoration would happen. Furthermore, 99% said they wanted processes, which actively involve local residents, to ensure that restoration happens to a high standard. People clearly want Lindow Moss to be restored properly, for CEC to communicate better with residents, and for residents to be actively engaged in the process
Transition Wilmslow also hoped to show why locals value Lindow Moss. The survey asked people to add personal comments, which constitute a powerful catalogue of over 170 unique perspectives on the Moss.
The responses of two residents summarise the feelings expressed. One said "along with many others, I have found being able to walk on the Moss a godsend during the recent lockdown – at a time when travel was severely curtailed, the importance of local green spaces, to local communities, has been made abundantly clear", and another stated: "for many people the exercise and tranquillity offered by places like Lindow Moss is vitally important for our mental health [...]. It would be a tragedy not to maintain and improve such a valuable resource." The full survey results can be viewed here.
Whilst it may not be possible to meet all of the residents' demands, and allay their concerns immediately, Transition Wilmslow recognises two important steps towards those goals. They are pleased to announce that the Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plan Implementation Group, chaired by Brian Donohue, has already written to the landowners suggesting that the Lindow Moss Liaison Committee, the establishment of which is a condition in the Decision Notice for the 2018 planning application (15/0064M), be set up as soon as possible.
This committee will ensure that there is proper oversight of the restoration plans and it is hoped will involve two local residents on its panel. Secondly, Transition Wilmslow is setting up a Lindow Moss Community Forum, to improve communication and involve more residents.
Our first Forum meeting will be on-line on Tuesday 22nd September and will aim to bring forum members up to speed on the restoration plans. Subsequent meetings will closely follow the progress with restoration and aim to communicate the opinions of forum members (and thereby local residents) to the Liaison Committee. If you would like to join the Lindow Moss Community Forum, fill out this form.
Brian Donohue, Chair of the Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plan Implementation Group said "The Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plan recognises the historic and biodiverse nature of Lindow Moss within the wider moss land area and includes policies supporting the safeguarding and restoration of the area. The implementation group has suggested to the landowners the setting up of the required Liaison group before restoration work starts. This will oversee the progress with restoration. It should include local residents as well as representatives of other groups on its panel. In conjunction with Transition Wilmslow's proposed Lindow Moss Community Forum, this will give residents a real voice, and improve communication about Lindow Moss' future immensely."
Tatton MP Esther McVey said "This survey demonstrates how much local people value Lindow Moss. It is vitally important that the restoration of the Moss goes ahead and that it becomes the carbon sink that we need to combat climate change, as well as a place of biodiversity, beauty and recreation. It is very important that local people have a real say on the future of the Moss."
Cheshire East Councillors Iain Macfarlane and Mark Goldsmith said: "Transition Wilmslow's survey highlights the importance of Lindow Moss to many local residents and how fully they support its restoration. After decades of peat extraction we will soon have the opportunity to return this much-loved area to natural wetland. We will ensure that Cheshire East Council monitor the regeneration closely and that it is completed to a high standard with vision & imagination.
"Furthermore, we support the involvement of local residents via the Liaison Committee, the Lindow Moss Community Forum and other local conservation groups as it is important that residents' voices continue to be heard."
Transition Wilmslow member and lead for the Save Lindow Moss campaign Matthew Fox said: "We are grateful to these local representatives for their support: we hope they help to ensure a bright future for Lindow Moss. We think it speaks to the success of the survey that these pledges have been given and would therefore like to thank everyone who completed the survey, as well as everyone who helped in designing it and collecting the responses. We look forward to the improved communication, and greater community engagement, which we hope will develop over the coming months and years."
Transition Wilmslow is part of the Transition Town Network.