After nearly four years controversial plans to build houses on part of Lindow Moss, a raised mire peat bog whose origins date back to the last Ice Age, were approved by the Strategic Planning Board on Wedneday, 19th December.
The owners of the land Andrew Rowland and Richard Bond submitted two planning applications which will enable them to build 14 detached homes on the site, which is best known for the discovery of the preserved bog body of Lindow Man in 1984. The processing area will be replaced with a development of 14 detached family homes and in return they have agreed to restore the 28 hectares peat extraction site to a natural wetland habitat.
Councillor Christopher Dodson said "Having spoken at the meeting on behalf of Wilmslow Town Council in favour of granting these two permissions I welcome the decisions.
"I would not normally support the building of 14 houses in the green belt but in this exceptional case this is a price worth paying for the significant environmental benefits which will stem from cessation of peat extraction and restoration of the peat extraction site 23 years earlier than would otherwise have been the case.
"The restoration process will take many years. I would like this to commence as soon as possible and to proceed as expeditiously as possible."
Pippa Jones of Transition Wilmslow said "Transition Wilmslow supported the two applications, albeit reluctantly, as we share the concern of many local residents about the principle of building on green belt, but we could see no alternative that would allow restoration of the Moss.
"Without these approvals, current planning conditions would allow peat cutting to continue until 2042, and the Wilmslow half of the Moss would become a landfill site. This would be an absolute disaster. The Moss is in urgent need of restoration, and without this, and soon, it will be irrevocably damaged. We therefore welcome the approval of both applications by the Strategic Planning Committee today, as if approved by the Secretary of State, the housing application will be linked to a clear restoration plan."
Pippa added "We welcome the decision of the Board to ensure that a community liaison committee is established. It is important that CEC sets this up urgently to ensure that the views of all local people are taken into account, and that we can be kept informed of progress on the restoration. We did propose an expert Restoration Committee to monitor the restoration process but unfortunately this was not approved.
"We are hopeful that one of the planning conditions will be the provision of a boardwalk to the findspot of Lindow Man as it is essential that this important historical landmark is properly acknowledged.
"The recent history of Lindow Moss since the 2003 planning approval has been a sorry one, with devastating effects on the Moss. There is an opportunity now for the council and the restorers to engage properly with the community and ensure that this vital landscape is properly restored."
Planning permission for peat extraction on Lindow Moss was granted by five separate permissions between 1959 and 1967, and would otherwise have expired in February 2042.