The day started with the cross examination of Bernard Burns the CEO of Sinclairs. Salford’s barrister John Barrett homed in on the availability of peat alternatives and argued that Sinclairs in fact had all the materials they needed (waste materials from composting called “oversize”) together with the technology to produce a product with characteristics very similar to peat called Superfyba. BB conceded that this was theoretically possible, but that it was more expensive and more investment was needed.
There were also some searching questions about a new drying technology which would enable Sinclairs to extract peat even in wet conditions. Sinclairs have refused to rule out its use at Chat Moss, in which case they could take far more than the 10cm per annum expected.
In discussion with Sinclairs about their intentions for restoration of the site in the event that permission was refused, BB said that he would not “seek to frustrate restoration to bog”, however he went on to say that the current planning permission “does not permit restoration to bog”, so it was unclear what would really happen.
The Trust took the opportunity (since no one else had) to press BB on the company’s record of non compliance with planning conditions and the likelihood of future non compliance. BB admitted somewhat reluctantly that he has not signed a written undertaking that Sinclairs will not extract peat on the Wigan side, (although he said that he had agreed to sign such an agreement).
The day ended with Simon Aumonier giving evidence on carbon. The usual arguments were made, namely that there would be “carbon leakage” if Sinclairs were not allowed to extract at Chat Moss because transport emissions would be higher at other sites .
Tomorrow, (Budget Day) also coincides with the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework, the draft version of which had some useful but rather loose wording, relating to the presumption of no planning permissions for new or extended peat extraction sites. The final version could either be very helpful or unhelpful, depending on whether or not the government has listened to representations from the Wildlife Trusts and others on this subject. Either way it is certain to be rapidly dissected by the respective barristers!