Sheffield MP welcomes victory for anti-heather burning campaigners, but calls for more work to restore peatlands

The Government has announced new legislation which will prevent heather burning on peatlands, following a campaign by environmental groups and a Sheffield MP.

By Alana Roberts
Tuesday, 2nd February 2021, 12:48 pm

The controversial practice of burning heather-covered moorland has long been critized for releasing millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, damaging biodiversity and increasing the threat of flooding - with many Yorkshire campaigners blaming it for recent increased flooding in the region.

Earlier this year Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake, whose constituency contains areas of moorland in the Peak District National Park, secured a debate on the issue in Parliament.

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Sheffield Hallam MP, Olivia Blake, has welcomed the new Government legislation on heather burning but said more needs to be done to restore peatland

She has now welcomed new regulations which prevent the burning of any specified vegetation on areas of deep peat on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) that is also a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or a Special Protection Area (SPA) unless a licence has been granted or the land is steep or rocky.

Following the announcement, Ms Blake said: “This is a hugely welcome victory for campaigners who have been pushing the government on this for years now. It is a positive step that Ministers have finally recognised that a ban is necessary, rather than the voluntary agreements which they have favoured in the past.

“However proposing the legislation is just the first step. It is vital that we look at the detail, to see how much peatland this new legislation will protect, in what circumstances peatlands will still be allowed to be burnt, and what the actual environmental impact will be.

"I have already submitted a number of questions to the Minister to try and get clarity on this.

“Banning heather burning is also only part of the picture. The government must do more to restore our peatlands. I have asked the Government several times when we can expect their long-awaited strategy for peatland restoration and I will continue to hold them to account on this.

“One thing is clear: the climate and nature emergency demands action. We urgently need a strategy for our peatlands that will lock CO2 in the ground, protect biodiversity, and help restore this precious natural resource."

Heather burning is a traditional tool used by gamekeepers as part of grouse moor management and can aid the controversial sport of grouse shooting, which some argue supports rural economies in areas like the Peak District.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.