Sheffield MP calls for a ban on moorland burning

An MP has called for moorland burning to be banned as she said flood victims were now attributing the devastation caused to their homes last year on the controversial practice.

Sheffield Hallam Labour MP Olivia Blake, whose constituency contains some of the moorland above the city, secured a debate on the issue in Parliament today.

She said: “Moorland burning releases millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, making the climate emergency worse; it destroys habitats, damaging ecosystems and ecologies; and as fires rage on our uplands, they increase the threat of floods from our lowland rivers.”

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“This Government has routinely committed to ending the burns but we’ve yet to see any legislative progress toward this.”

Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake. Photo: SubmittedSheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake. Photo: Submitted
Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake. Photo: Submitted

“We can’t rely on the goodwill of landowners to stop the burning - just ask the residents of Hebden Bridge and the Calder Valley. We all saw on our TVs the damage done to those communities by last year’s horrendous flooding. Many now attribute those floods to heather burning on Walshaw Moor.”

And she called for the Government to announce an immediate ban on the procedure.

However, Scarborough and Whitby Conservative MP Robert Goodwill, who is also a farmer, said that while he agreed that peat must be preserved, he added: “different ways of management need to be conducted on different types of moorland”.

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He said: “If [Ms Blake] wants to come and see what happens to moor if you don't manage it in this way, she should come to Troutsdale Moor, just outside Scarborough, that has not been managed as a moor for the last 30 years, and that's reverted to scrubland.”

He said: “If we didn't manage the moorland in the way we do. I think we would see wildfires. Burning creates fire breaks, and we've seen from the United States and Australia how when they stopped back burning, those fires got out of hand, in 2019 there was a record number of wildfires.”

And he said that record was again broken this year.

He said there were also people who were opposed to moorland burning because they were opposed to grouse shooting.

And he said: “That's a perfectly respectable position to have, but don't use this as a way of actually destroying that very fragile environment on the North Yorkshire Moors because if we we don't have managed moorland then we'll have no grouse, no sheep, but we'll also have no lapwings and no curlews and no birds of prey too.”

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) minister Rebecca Pow said protecting the environment was “right at the top” of the Government’s agenda.