CONSERVATION plans are underway to create a 'Great North Bog' to restore thousands of acres of peatland stretching from the Peak District to the Scottish Borders.

The area covers five national parks including the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors, the Lake District and Northumberland.

The peatland restoration project is estimated to cost in excess of £200m over a 20-year lifespan and involves protecting and restoring 2,700sq miles of upland peat. The Great North Bog area is estimated to store more than 400m tonnes of carbon.

Due to annual erosion and the drying-out process of peatlands, it is estimated 3.7m tonnes of carbon is released per year. This equates to approximately one per cent of the UK’s annual carbon emission of 350m tonnes. Peat bogs are the dead remains of trees and plantlife that died more than 12,000 years ago.

The climate change committee estimates the amount of healthy peatland required to help the UK achieve its carbon targets needs to be increased from the current 25 per cent to 58 per cent by 2035 and to 79 per cent by 2050.

The project will be of concern to landowners, especially to sheep farmers grazing the upland regions. Re-hydrating or repairing the peatlands will be a lengthy, costly and laborious process.

It is estimated that peat bog grow-back is at 10mm per annum compared to an annual loss of 25mm per year. However, reducing carbon levels could be a more effective strategy, rather than merely storing carbon.

So far, there has not been any mention of compensation to sheep farmers and landowners who currently manage the peatlands included in the £200m scheme.

Old Victorian drainage systems helped turn peatlands into more animal productive landscapes. Post-Second World War, as a result of greater mechanical engineering and the need for increased levels of home-grown food production, the upland regions were drained. During the 1950s and 1960s, government schemes paid landowners to drain moorland bogs for sheep grazing.

The UK is set to host the COP26 United Nations climate summit in Cornwall in November and the government is keen to back environmental projects. Environmentalist’s claim restoring peat lands will help reduce flood risk, assist water filtration, aid biodiversity and will create a haven for wild flowers and wildlife as well as, aid tourism.

National Parks UK is currently drawing up funding procedures for the project.