Extinction Rebellion stage protest at Boundary Mill store and chip shop

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Local Extinction Rebellion protesters have staged a peaceful protest outside the entrance to Boundary Mill in Colne.

The Pendle branch of the national pressure group fighting to highlight the effects of climate change stressed the protest was not directed at Boundary Mill's workers or the people who shop there, but the retail chain's owner Richard Bannister who they have accused of harmful peat burning on his Walshaw Moor Estate.

Supporters gathered outside the front entrance to the popular store and also outside the nearby fish and chip shop Banny's, where they waved banners proclaiming the dangers of peat burning.

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A spokesman for the group said: "The purpose of our protest at Boundary Mill is to bring to public attention the destructive actions of its owner Richard Bannister who also owns the Walshaw Moor Estate the head office of which is registered at Boundary Mill.

Extinction Rebellion protesters at Boundary Mill in ColneExtinction Rebellion protesters at Boundary Mill in Colne
Extinction Rebellion protesters at Boundary Mill in Colne

"Walshaw Moor covers a huge area of 6,500 acres of moorland between Colne and Hebden Bridge. Under Mr Bannister's ownership the moor is being drained and the heather regularly burnt off to make way for younger plants for grouse to feed on so they can then be shot for 'sport'.

"But mismanagement of the moorland in this way directly contributes to catastrophic climate change and global warming.

"Scientific studies now show that these activities degrade and dry out the peatland; release climate warming gases; increase the risk of flooding eg. Calder Valley; educe biodiversity; increase the risk of devastating wild fires."

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Burning heather is now banned in Scotland but even though the government's own Committee on Climate Change says peatland restoration is a priority it is still allowed in England.

Protesters gather outside Boundary Mill with bannersProtesters gather outside Boundary Mill with banners
Protesters gather outside Boundary Mill with banners

The spokesman added: "In 2011 the government agency Natural England charged Mr Bannister’s Walshaw Moor Estate with 45 offences regarding its mismanagement of the moor.

"But having spent £1m. on the case then mysteriously dropped it. So wealthy landowners, like Richard Bannister, just keep on burning whilst also receiving huge public farm subsidies which totalled over £10m. in 2018."

A report published this month by the countryside charity CPRE states that over three billion tonnes of carbon is stored in the peatlands of the UK – equivalent to all the carbon stored in the forests of the UK, Germany and France combined.

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Trees are a source of carbon capture but a pristine, wet peat bog soaks up even more CO2 and, unlike trees, has no limit to the amount of carbon it captures.

A banner was hung outside Banny's fish and chip restaurantA banner was hung outside Banny's fish and chip restaurant
A banner was hung outside Banny's fish and chip restaurant

The spokesman went on to say: "However a drying out, degraded peat bog, like Mr Bannister's Walshaw Moor, can actually be a big emitter of CO2 as the carbon oxidises. The CPRE estimates that around 18.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions now come from degraded peatlands each year.

"It does not have to be this way!"

The chief executive of Parliament's Committee on Climate Change, Chris Stark, states that: “Peatland restoration is a no brainer but action needs to start now.

"Most of the UK's peatlands are in bad shape but it’s fixable by restoring and managing the land more sustainably. In addition healthy peatland also delivers healthy benefits such as biodiversity, cleaner water and flood prevention.”

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Pendle's Extinction Rebellion group also issued the following message to Mr Bannister:

"Take up Extinction Rebellion's challenge and stop contributing to the catastrophic climate change which is already having a devastating impact on our fragile planet. Use your wealth and influence to help create a cleaner, greener, healthier planet. What better legacy could you leave to the children of today and all the generations to come."

Boundary Mill and Mr Bannister were approached for comment but declined.

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