Dumfries and Galloway Council has refused a planning application to extract more peat from Lochwood Moss, near Moffat in Scotland. This decision is likely to be beneficial for wild reptiles, which often suffer from the loss of lowland bog habitat when peat is extracted. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) objected to the application and NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage) also recommended against approval.

Peat extraction from a lowland moss site in Scotland in 2014

This appears to be the first instance where SEPA has objected to a time extension application for peat extraction on climate change grounds, so it may set an important precedent. SEPA, NatureScot and the local council all cited incompatibility with climate change policies as a reason for not supporting the application. Peat is an important store of carbon and its removal, disturbance or burning contributes to global warming. In this case, the peat was destined for use in horticulture (most garden centres now offer peat-free compost as an alternative).

Although this application was not principally rejected due to its impacts on local biodiversity, local wildlife should eventually benefit from restoration of areas of Lochwood Moss which have suffered from decades of peat extraction. There are many records of native reptiles (including adders and common lizards) in the vicinity of the site. Lochwood Moss, between Moffat and Dumfries, is close to the main road (M74) and railway which connects western Scotland with England.

Native reptiles such as the adder may be able to recolonise, if the bog is restored

When the M74 was upgraded in the 1990s, large numbers of adders were moved away from areas being developed. It is likely that Lochwood Moss would also have been an important reptile site before peat extraction began. Adders, common lizards and slow-worms are still found along the M74 corridor and railway embankments, so if the bog is restored, they (and many other species) may be able to recolonise it. Scotland may be an important stronghold for the adder, which is becoming increasingly rare in many parts of the UK. ARC along with other wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, have welcomed the local council’s decision to refuse further peat extraction on environmental grounds.

"We commend Dumfries and Galloway Council for this important decision. Peat extraction would have been bad news for reptiles, and clearly has longer term implications for our climate. This decision reflects the importance of conserving wild areas for their biodiversity and wider socio-economic/ecosystems services benefits" says Dr Tony Gent, CEO at ARC.

The decision was also mentioned in the ENDS Report. The planning application (reference 19/0996/FUL) documents can be found here and here.

Banner image: Lochwood Moss - Peat workings south of Beattock.
© Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.