‘Up green credentials’ & go peat free, council told

Alliance Cllr Jill Truesdale.Alliance Cllr Jill Truesdale.
Alliance Cllr Jill Truesdale.
​Carbon concerned Mournes reps are urging the Stormont Environment Minister to form a strategy to save Northern Ireland’s peat-lands.

​Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s (NMDDC) enterprise, regeneration and tourism committee approved a motion this week to end the purchase of peat-based compost by the end of this year.

The council area now forms part of the protected Mourne Gullion Strangford UNESCO Global Geopark, made up of three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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Bringing forward the motion, Alliance rep, Jill Truesdale said: “That this council believes peat-lands are a critical part of our ecosystems regulating the water cycle, purifying water and supporting biodiversity.

Cllr Willie Clarke (SF).Cllr Willie Clarke (SF).
Cllr Willie Clarke (SF).

“Further recognises that peat-lands store more carbon for longer periods than any other ecosystem worldwide.

“And therefore, resolves to protect peat-lands and to end its purchase and use of peat-based compost by the end of 2024.”

She added: “To me it is not a big stretch for the council to up its green credentials and take that final step to go peat free.

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“Last year the council purchased one pallet of peat based compost, which is 40% peat based, for the whole district, compared to 2019 when four pallets of peat based compost was purchased.

“So, that decrease is to be commended, but it is possible to go that extra one.

“Most importantly a 2metre deep active peat-land will store approximately 8,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare locking away further 0.7tonnes of carbon per hectare every year.

“Within the National Trust zone in the Mournes there are 22 hectares of deep peat-lands.

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“We have to ask why should we put plants that don’t grow naturally in a false environment.

“Everyone should be planting to their own soil type.

“I would like a report back in six months to know what alternatives have been used and which are best to go peat free.”

An amendment was made to the proposal by Sinn Fein cllr Willie Clarke for the council to write to the DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development) Minister Andrew Muir (Alliance) to ask for a review of peat products and to develop a peat-lands strategy.

A report to the chamber shows that the council currently uses approximately 2.2tonnes of peat based compost for amenity planting.

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A council officer responded: “The council is working with a wide range of stakeholders in the development of a potential PeacePlus project focusing on peat-lands.

“The investment area will promote cross-border cooperation to facilitate the recovery of selected peat land habitats and species across the programme area.

“Working in partnership with Monaghan County Council, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, East Border Region, Ulster Wildlife, Louth and Meath county councils we were successful in securing Shared Island Authority Development funding to progress the ‘Feasibility of Restoring a Necklace of Peace Lands- Peatlands’ along the East Border Region.

“This work proposes to develop a plan for how to restore peat-lands in the region, delivering quantifiable emission reduction targets and area of degraded peat-lands in improving ecological condition. Resulting in prioritising sites for peat-land restoration forming an investment proposal to deliver benefits for biodiversity, climate and people.”

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