Day 9 Friday 23rd March
The day started with Mr and Mrs Edwards giving evidence about the impact of peat extraction on the land around their house which is adjacent to the site, and also the impact of dust. The soil levels have dropped by 1.3m in the last 10 years leaving the house (which is built on piles) standing with a large gap underneath it, and requiring 5 steps to get in at the front door! A number of health and safety issues were raised. Sinclairs suggested that the soil shrinkage may have been due to compression of the peat as a result of creation of hard-standing areas, drainage of the land within the property boundary and the drying out effect of trees. This was vigorously denied by Mr Edwards. The inspector said he wanted to visit the property.
Martin Leay presented a summary of Sinclairs case, and the rest of the day was spent in cross examination by the Salford barrister.
We revisited what are now becoming very familiar areas of complete disagreement:
· The appropriateness of Sinclair’s “amenity “ restoration plan including the legitimacy of constructing bunds as part of it (Sinclairs say bunds are not “minor regrading works”)
· Sinclair’s contention that Chat Moss is the “best” site to extract from with the minimum environmental impact
· Their contention that it is government policy to provide peat from “indigenous” sites in England rather than elsewhere in the UK (Chat Moss is apparently the only site available)
Salford argued that:
· Peat extraction is unsustainable
· Stopping peat extraction at Chat Moss would be exactly what the government is seeking to achieve through its peat reduction targets
· Any resulting increase in peat prices would help to encourage the move towards peat free alternatives
· The site is an Annex 1 habitat under the Habitats Directive
· The existing section 106 Agreement requirements are completely compatible with restoration to lowland raised bog
In many ways the cross-examination was pointless as there was no movement whatsoever on any of these points, so the only way forward will be to articulate them once again in the closing statements which will be submitted in writing on April 2nd.
Monday 26th March will be the final day of the Inquiry with cross examination of Martin Leay by Wigan and the Trust followed by a discussion on a set of draft conditions (chaired by the Inspector). If there is still disagreement over the conditions (which of course will only be relevant in the event that the appeal is granted), then it will be up to the Inspector and ultimately the Secretary of State to choose which version of any particular condition is the most appropriate.