UK urged to ban peat extraction on nature sites within 6 months

According to the RSPB, nine of the 14 English sites currently being worked for peat are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). In Scotland, four of 20 worked sites are SSSIs.

Use of peat by UK gardeners increased between 1993 and 1997 by 50% and gardeners now account for 70% of all peat used, according to Government figures.

Several environmental groups have called on the Government to increase the legal protection of SSSIs and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and this latest campaign from the RSPB has further upped the ante.

In addition to its demand for a ban within six months of commercial peat extraction on SSSIs, the RSPB has also called on the Government to commit itself to a complete ban on commercial extraction of peat and peat use by 2005.

According to the RSPB, peat alternatives require funding by the Government and promotion by well-known television gardening presenters and magazine writers. In particular, the RSPB points to the potential of composting to replace peat as a growing medium.

The four MPs who represent constituencies located in and near the UK’s largest peat producing area, Thorne and Hatfield Moors in South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, have supported RSPB’s call for a peat ban. Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley said: “Thorne and Hatfield are both recommended as sites of European environmental importance, yet industrial exploitation by drainage and peat extraction continue on a vast scale.”

Ian Cawsey, MP for Brigg and Goole argued that peat alternatives represent a chance to create jobs. “A thriving peat alternatives industry would provide significant employment opportunities and would avoid the need to exploit peat bogs outside the UK,” said Cawsey.

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