Protected ‘scientific interest’ moors bid

The view from Anglezarke to Winter Hill
The view from Anglezarke to Winter Hill
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Popular beauty spots in Chorley’s countryside could be given extra protection in future.

The West Pennine Moors, including Rivington, Anglezarke, White Coppice and Brinscall, are being considered for designation as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) by Natural England.

Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle

Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle

The label is given to the country’s best wildlife or geological sites and includes wetlands with wading birds, winding chalk rivers, flower-rich meadows, windswept shingle beaches and remote upland peat bogs.

There are more than 4,100 SSSIs in England, covering around eight per cent of the country, and they are protected by law to conserve their wildlife or geology.

A spokesman for Natural England said: “The West Pennine Moors is one of the sites that Natural England will be considering for designation as a site of scientific interest during the financial year 2016-2017. Natural England’s area team is now working on the detailed planning and timing for when this work will be completed.

“We are looking forward to working with the land owners and other interested parties of West Pennine Moors on this programme of work during the coming year.

“The West Pennine Moors is one of the sites that Natural England will be considering for designation as a site of scientific interest during the financial year 2016-2017.”

Natural England

“We work closely with land owners and other stakeholders when assessing whether a place is nationally important and there is both informal discussion and a formal consultation before any final decision is made.”

It is understood that 30 sites around the country had been selected for possible SSSIs, but only three have been chosen to move forward, including the West Pennine Moors.

Chorley’s MP Lindsay Hoyle wrote to Natural England to ask for the area to be designated as an “area of outstanding natural beauty” in 2013.

He was concerned at the time about proposals for a £12m solar farm in Heapey and feared that if it went ahead, it could lead to other building work on the West Pennine Moors.

Since then, there has also been the prospect of fracking, with gas companies being offered permission to explore for oil and gas in the area in the 14th round of licences granted by the Oil and Gas Authority.

Mr Hoyle welcomed the area being considered for an SSSI by Natural England.

He said: “My view is that we thought it was right and it’s probably more relevant now than ever as we see the encroachment on beautiful areas of outstanding natural beauty.

“The fact is that the whole of the Pennines have special protections except our area and it seems absurd that we have been missed out and we want to rectify that gap.

“I think common sense is now prevailing and we want to push ahead.”

Malcolm Allen, a parish councillor in Heapey, said: “As a parish council we did talk to our MP at the time when we were getting planning applications for large wind turbines and a solar farm so close to one of Chorley’s beauty spots, White Coppice, which has a lot of visitors at the weekend.

“It was what we could do to protect the surrounding area.

“We are quite happy. It’s not as large as we were hoping for but it is a step in the right direction.”

It is understood that 30 sites around the country had been selected for possible SSSIs, but only three have been chosen to move forward, including the West Pennine Moors.

The potential SSSI designation will be discussed tomorrow at Chorley Council’s Chorley liaison meeting. It starts at 6.30pm at Chorley Town Hall.