Forestry Commission admits mistakes in peat bog row

A row has erupted over the fate of a peat bog between Penrith and Keswick. The Forestry Commission has admitted making a mistake after giving permission for the land to be planted with trees.  Conservationists are demanding the trees are now removed.

The land, located near Penrith, is the subject of what's known as a countryside Stewardship agreement, where financial incentives are provided by the government to landowners for a variety of purposes including planting new woodland. The Forestry Commission granted permission to plant trees on the bog which has been there for between three and four thousand years, a decision that has being condemned by campaigners.

The CEO of the Cumbria Wildlife trust, Stephen Trotter told ITV Border, ''When plants die the normal processes of recycling don't take place so gradually dead bits of plant accumulate over the centuries and thousands of years. So you build this deep reservoir of peat and carbon that's locked away from the atmosphere and as it grows the bog sucks down the carbon from the atmosphere into the peat so it's a real ally in the fight against climate change.

"As soon as you drain these peat bogs they dry out and the fungi and the bacteria start growing again and that releases the carbon back into the atmosphere. So we'll now be losing the carbon that's been fixed here and adding to climate change.  Second, it's really bad for the wildlife. The really unusual and rare mosses and insects that live here will start to diminish as the site gets drier and drier, and thirdly as the trees grow it'll dry out the bog, shade the bog and we'll lose the birds as well as some of the plants. So it's a triple whammy really in terms of environment and conservation."

Stephen Trotter, Cumbria Wildlife Trust CEO says planting trees on the peat bog would be harmful to the environment. Credit: ITV News

In a statement, the The Forestry Commission said, "We recognise the need to preserve and protect important habitats and we took our decision on this site based on the evidence we had at the time we reviewed the proposal. Lessons learnt from this case will inform our process of continuous improvement as we aim to balance the strong demand for new woodland creation with the need to preserve and protect important existing habitats."  

The Cumbria Wildlife Trust are asking for the land to be restored to how it once was.

The Forestry Commission say conversations with the  applicants are ongoing.