MOSSLAND in Golborne could be restored to create a ‘carbon sink’ and a refuge for wildlife as the council uses a law from 1899 to reclaim the common.
Edge Green Common, which has no registered or traceable owner, is already home to a range of habitats including acid grassland, woodland and peat bog.
As well as capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it serves as a ‘stepping stone’ between other mossland and wetland sites in Wigan, Warrington and Salford for species such as dragonflies and butterflies.
The site’s diverse plants and habitats also include some species not seen in any surviving mosslands in Lancashire, Greater Manchester or Merseyside.
This type of lowland habitat, which is regarded as internationally threatened, is under particular pressure for development – but whenever it is drained or dug up, ‘vast amounts’ of carbon dioxide are released back into the atmosphere.
Thanks to its common land status, the bulk of the site has never been commercially exploited for peat, cultivated for agriculture or developed.
But this also means that the mossland has not been restored or managed.
Wigan Council is now in the process of reclaiming the land using a process set out in the Commons Act of 1899 with plans to enter a 99-year agreement with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust for the management of this unique habitat.
Greenheart project officer Martin Purcell told councillors on the regulation committee about the scheme at a meeting on Monday (February 15).
He said: “As a council we have declared a climate emergency and we have the opportunity to act now with the investment that’s available from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund to secure the carbon storage capacity of the Edge Green Common site.
“This can be achieved by constructing earth bunds, scrapes and water holding features which encourages bog vegetation to grow to lock in the carbon and in turn increase biodiversity, improve species movement and ultimately help to create a more resilient landscape.”
A full search to identify all owners and occupiers of the site has been made by the local authority, but officers say it was not possible to identify an owner.
Wigan council must now give notice of its intention to make a scheme for the regulation and management of the common, allowing anyone to object or make representations which the council must consider after three months.
If anyone comes forward before the scheme is approved claiming they are entitled by right to the ‘soil of the common’, or at least one third of its value, the council cannot proceed with the scheme unless compensation is offered.
Lancashire Wildlife Trust would use funding from the government’s £40m Green Recovery Challenge Fund to cover any ‘unlikely’ compensation claims.
Committee chairman Stephen Hellier said the scheme is ‘very good news’.
Lowton East councillor Edward Houlton praised the local authority’s work.
He said: “I’m absolutely in favour of this. It’s vital that we repair the damage that we’ve done unwittingly to the country.
“If we’re going to keep on building houses then we need to do this.”