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Bogged down: legal battle over York’s prehistoric bog

Askham bog faces the possible risk of being built on and subsequently being destroyed in the process

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Image Credit: Malcolm Temple

The future of York’s hidden natural treasure, Askham Bog, is once again possibly at risk as a housing developer has launched an appeal.

The developer was blocked from building 516 homes on adjacent land after a petition gathered over 7,000 signatures and the City of York Council rejected the proposals. There were fears that if the development had been allowed to proceed then the construction work and subsequent land use would have caused a lowering of the area’s water table.

The building of new houses would decrease the overall permeability of the ground causing high run-off which in turn could have caused the prehistoric bog to dry up, leaving Yorkshire without one of its oldest hidden gems. Prominent figures in the local area have stood up to oppose the proposed plans, arguing they are unsustainable and not a part of York’s planned ‘green’ future.

Each has raised concerns from the local council, to Sir David Attenborough, to the MP for York Outer Julian Sturdy. The MP would ask the very first question in Boris Johnson’s Prime Minister’s questions, asking why the British Governemt had not done more to combat unsustaibable development in York. He also hit headlines by inviting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to join him in lying in front of any bulldozers that tried to start development: a tactic that Johnson once proposed during his campaign to stop Heathrow’s second runway.

Askham Bog formed over 15,000 years ago when melt water from the last glacial ice melt filled a hollow dip in the land. Over the last 15,000 years multiple layers of organic matters have formed and the bog today is now home to multiple varieties of peat.

The centre of the bog is noticeable for its acidic poor-quality nature which has enabled moss growth and the establishment of peat, while the outer areas with their supply of rich base water are where the majority of the fen grows.

While the developer has insisted that the development would not have any impact on the area’s water table, local activists remain unconvinced. The developer has appealed the decision insisting that the new homes are needed as part of a push to ease York’s housing crisis. With the two sides now at an impasse it appears that this case is likely to drag on into the future. Askham Bog is located just inside the A64 ring road.

Students can get to the prehistoric bog from Campus West via a fifteen minute car ride or via a three hour round walk. The site has information signs dotted around and does operate guided tours at certain times.

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