>>>peat extraction in the uk

In all 17 raised bogs in England and 24 in Scotland have permission for peat extraction, 12 of which have been (at least partly) notified as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

In August 2001, the government notified several areas as potential "Special Areas for Conservation" (pSAC). Four of them affect peat extraction sites - Thorne Moor, Hatfield Moor and two sites near Carlisle in Cumbria (Wedholme Flow GR215525, mined by Scotts and L&P Peat and Bolton Fell GR487698 mined by Wm Sinclair). However, there are several steps before they are actually approved, and even then it is not clear whether peat production will have to stop. These sites between them comprise about 60% of the peat production of the UK so the peat industry will no doubt be lobbying fairly hard against the designation.

It would be highly unusual if a peat bog with SSSI status got a new permission to extract peat. The reason why so much peat is taken from SSSI land is because permissions were given in the 1940s and 50s before the conservation designations were given. It is possible for a local council to rescind permission on a site, but they are usually reluctant to do so, as it involves paying large compensation packages to the company who own the peat extraction rights

Demand for peat has been increasing in recent years. The DETR claims that peat use may have increased by 46% between 1993 and 1999. This can be attributed to 'patio gardening' coming into fashion, growbags becoming cheaper, and the anti-peat campaign of the late 1980s fading from the public consciousness.

Around two-thirds of the peat consumption in the UK is done by amateur gardeners. The remainder goes on commercial agriculture (eg. mushrooms, lettuces) and landscaping, especially golf courses.

The UK also imports a significant amount of peat. To date the majority of this has come from the Irish Republic (70% in 1999), but also peat comes from the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea. These imports can be expected to increase as the economies of former communist states are opened up further to the tentacles of western capitalism.

Imports are rising at an alarming rate. In just 2 years, from 1997 to 1999, they rose from 0.86 million cubic metres to 1.26 million cubic metres. The bulk of imported peat is used by commercial growers rather than going into bagged compost for garden centres.

Peat alternatives have greatly improved in recent years in matching the highly prized qualities of peat. But still they remain a fraction of the market: the figures for peat used as a growing medium by gardeners show that only 6% of the amount of peat alternatives are used as peat. Local Authorities manage to do much better, using on average nearly twice as high a proportion of peat alternatives as peat for the same purpose - maybe some have policies against peat use floating around.

The commercial body which looks after the peat industry is the Peat Producers Association. It currently has 23 members and looks after lobbying and PR for them.

Peat production in the UK is only for horticulture. There is currently no usage of peat for burning in power stations, as takes place in Ireland and Scandinavia.

Some of the information for this article was taken from the ADAS report into the state of the peat industry and the potential for peat alternatives