Carrington Moss – A Site of Biological Importance

We are really looking forward to the presentation from David Reeves, Reserves Management Coordinator for Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Northern Group at our AGM on 17th August. 
We hope you will come along.  David will be talking about the Sites of Biological Importance (SBI) on Carrington Moss, which have long been recognised by Trafford as crucial for their ecological value. 

In fact, a very forward-thinking Trafford Council documented the Wetlands at Carrington Moss as an SBI in their Unitary Development Plan (UDP) of 2006 and recognised the importance of “The protection and enhancement of the moss land as a carbon sink to mitigate the effects of climate change” back in the Core Strategy of 2012, before other Authorities were even talking about climate change! 

In that Core Strategy, the Authority identified “The protection and enhancement of the sites of nature conservation and biological importance, including the Carrington Rides” as a condition which MUST be satisfied in order for development to take place in the area. 

In Trafford’s Landscape Strategy of 2004 the document noted that “The Council has completed a Landscape Assessment of the Borough’s open land and has identified seven different landscape types that it wishes to seek to preserve and enhance”.  One of those Landscape Types was the Mossland at Carrington Moss.  This document also mentions that the Mossland “forms perhaps the oldest remaining landscape feature in the Borough.  It is invaluable archaeological evidence on how the landscape and climate has changed over the centuries”.  

The Landscape Strategy talks about the “unique” characteristics of Carrington Moss and the mossland ditches are described as “important areas of ecological value”.  It states that any development in the area should conserve and enhance the structure of the Carrington Rides.  Again, way in advance of current thinking, Trafford suggested the establishment of traditional wildflowers next to ditches and fields.  One of the key proposals in the Landscape Strategy was the conservation and enhancement of the open aspect and views which were considered to be “important characteristics of the area”.

The UDP of 2006 included the Carrington Rides in the list of features the Council would seek to “retain, protect and wherever possible, enhance”.  They are described as a Local Nature Conservation Site.  That document also identified the Carrington Tree Belts as one of the areas in which the Council would seek to “consolidate and strengthen the effectiveness of the wildlife corridors”.  The UDP states that “Local Nature Conservation Sites were identified by Trafford Borough Council as a result of a habitat survey carried out by the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit, to a nationally approved method and updated by local knowledge”.

Testament indeed to the level of importance

Trafford has placed on Carrington Moss in the

past!

Yet now, here we are, trying to persuade our local politicians that they should not put up to 10,000 houses and several roads across it.  What has changed???

Well for a start, in 2012 Trafford estimated that Carrington could deliver 1,560 homes, now the GMSF plans to eradicate the carbon capturing peat moss and build a minimum of 6,100 homes (and up to 10,000) on it.  This level of increase is not only illogical, it is unsustainable.  It conflicts with the strategic aims of the GMSF, the Trafford declaration of a climate emergency, the GM 5 year Environment Plan, and a number of other policies and strategies. 

Clearly, for some of our politicians, the protection and enhancement of the sites of biological importance, including the Carrington Wetlands, a grade A SBI, is no longer considered as important today as it was just a few years ago!  

For local residents, however, the importance of this wonderful green space has increased due to recognition of the potential affect of climate change and the health impact of air pollution.

This breeding and feeding ground for more than 20 red listed (globally threatened) birds and a number of endangered wildlife species, will instead be largely built on (roads and houses)

Who will benefit ………..?

Trafford Residents?

We are not anti-house-building, and we do recognise there is a housing crisis, so are these plans focused on those who are in dire need of housing?

Are there development obligations that ensure the people of Trafford who need homes are considered first?

How expensive will the new houses be? How will Trafford ensure the required minimum 30% affordable homes will definitely be built? 

Are there development obligations that prevent the new homes being sold (often off plan) to foreign investors?

And something topical for this week, Carrington Moss is a flood plain, what will happen to all that water – will we end up with floods in new or existing homes?

The planned new road(s) will create significant levels of additional air pollution in the area, affecting the health and wellbeing of residents, users of the sports facilities and users of the Transpennine Trail. 

Currently residents are able to use this free local amenity for walking, cycling, horseriding, nature spotting and bird watching.  Oh yes, the GMSF suggests a green corridor is planned, but most of it appears to be on land that residents cannot routinely use.  The sports fields of Manchester United and Sale RFC, for example, some of which are actually synthetic.  To be clear, we are not criticising the sports clubs for this, but we do not believe the Authority should be classifying artificial grass as a “green corridor”! How does decimating this fantastic local amenity benefit residents?

The Environment?

Did you know Trafford declared a climate emergency back in November 2018?  Well, the plans are to build housing and roads on a peat moss which has been capturing carbon for thousands of years, so we will actually be releasing hundreds of thousands of megatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere!  Does that sound like it meets the requirements of a declaration of a climate emergency?!

The current A6144 road is busy during rush hour, not at other times of the day, so why do we need a new road as a priority?  Is there a commitment to more public transport for this area? Not in the strategy documents that have been published so far.  Absolutely no commitments to anything but the Relief Road!

And the new road(s) across Carrington Moss (the GMSF indicated more than one road) will be a great additional shortcut for people from outside the borough.  Given the amount of additional traffic (and no public transport improvements, no park and rides, no trams) – will it resolve or exacerbate congestion issues!  The recently built A555 (Airport Relief Road) is an example from elsewhere in the region, but, of course, that has been closed due to flooding ………..

With all that industrial and warehousing space in New Carrington (between 410,000 and 900,000 square metres), the anticipated 400 – 600 lorries per day (24×7) will bring even more traffic and pollution to the area.

Some of the terrain is Grade 2 agricultural land – which means it is perfect for growing the crops we need to eat (I won’t mention the “B” word, but this may become particularly important after we leave), locally sourced and sold, reducing our carbon footprint – but no – the fields will be built on!

The Wildlife & Birds?

And what about those endangered creatures, whose habitat is this SBI, will they benefit from these decisions?  Sadly, many will undoubtedly die because their habitat has been fractured or eliminated.  Some may have already been moved several times because of the development programmes in the area.  Some ecologists involved in planning applications appear not to have the interests of wildlife and birds at the heart of their aims and objectives.  In one recent planning application, an ecologist’s report appeared to suggest that red listed birds can just relocate to nearby fields when their homes are destroyed.  Experts will know that the birds need to fight for their territory, fight to protect their young and fight to secure sufficient food to feed themselves and their families.  So, it is not just a case of “Open arable fields in the wider area” providing “suitable habitat” for the displaced red listed birds whose feeding, roosting and nesting habitats are expected to be destroyed!

These endangered wildlife and red listed birds are already struggling, here are just a few examples of the challenges some of the creatures you will find on Carrington Moss are facing (images courtesy of the web pages mentioned below):

the water vole – which has “undergone one of the most serious declines of any wild mammal in Britain during the 20th century” (https://ptes.org/get-informed/facts-figures/water-vole/) – between 1989 and 1998 “the population fell by almost 98%!”  Research led by the Wildlife Trusts indicates there has been a 30% decline in water vole populations since 2006, which represents an approximately 3% loss in populations per year.

the hedgehog – recent surveys have shown hedgehog numbers have “fallen by about 50% since the turn of the century” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42959766), with some researchers estimating the decline at higher levels (66% in the past 13 years https://www.bto.org/science/monitoring/hedgehogs.) “Conservation groups say they are particularly concerned about the plight of the prickly creatures in rural areas.”

bats – many bat species are vulnerable or endangered as a consequence of loss or fragmentation of their habitat, diminished food supply and destruction of their homes. According to https://www.bats.org.uk/bat populations have declined considerably over the last century. Bats are still under threat from building and development work that affects roosts, loss of habitat, the severing of commuting routes by roads“.  The brown long-eared bat which has declined by 31.3% since 1999 (a 2.2% decline per year).

the common toad – many of our once common amphibian species are in acute decline, including the common frog, common toad and natterjack toad.  Recent research has shown that common toad populations have declined across the UK by 68% over the past 30 years, which approximates to a 2.26 % decline per year.  The reasons for the decline in the common toad are similar to those affecting hedgehogs including habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution and climate change. https://www.froglife.org/2018/03/23/amphibian-and-reptile-declines-uk-perspective/

the skylark – the UK population halved during the 1990s and is still declining, in their preferred habitat (farmland) skylarks have declined by 75%.
https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/skylark/threats/#EmyeBdfkY6ixxPWH.99

the lapwing – between 1987 and 1998 lapwing numbers dropped by 49 per cent in England and Wales. Since 1960 the numbers dropped by 80 per cent https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/lapwing/population-trends/#WZizT2MxLgOTApod.99

All in all, a sad situation for our wildlife and birds. You can find more information on our website at this link: https://friendsofcarringtonmoss.com/endangered-species/

So who can possibly be benefiting from these ill-considered, disproportionate and totally unnecessary plans to release 240 hectares of green belt and develop on a peat moss??? 

Let us know what YOU think!

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