The pursuit has been staged on the moor above the affluent West Yorkshire town by Bingley Moor Partnership (BMP) for eight days a year since it was awarded shooting rights a decade ago, and it has maintained the land under Countryside Stewardship scheme rules which reward landowners for wildlife gains.
Bradford Council is the last local authority in the UK to allow grouse shooting on public moorland. Except for between 1997 and 2007, shooting has taken place on Ilkley Moor for more than 100 years, but members of the council’s majority Labour group have voted against renewing the existing rights when they expire in April.
Ed Bromet, spokesman for Bingley Moor Partnership, said the Council can ill afford to manage the landscape without private funds. BMP’s offer to continue shooting amounted to around £1.6m over ten years, comprising of new Countryside Stewardship scheme payments and £800,000 from the BMP itself, he said.
“If Bradford Council wish to maintain the current high standard of management it must now look to taxpayers to fund it, which will be a challenge given they are already under such financial pressure that they have had to cut back on basic services for the elderly and disabled,” he said.
“This decision is a major setback for an excellent example of successful conservation amongst the pressures of an increasingly suburban area.
“We have had a full-time employee on the moor with all the necessary machinery to manage the vegetation. Last spring 62 curlews were recorded on the moor and this is an endangered species on the conservation watchlist. Bradford’s task is to do all that and maintain those bird numbers, and it remains to be seen if they can do so.”
Adrian Blackmore, director of shooting at the Countryside Alliance, added: “The taxpayers of Bradford need to ask their councillors why they will now be paying tens of thousands of pounds to undertake work currently paid for by private investment.
“The Alliance will now be calling on the Council not only to maintain the levels of funding that have to date been put into Ilkley Moor by BMP, but also to monitor the levels of wildlife.”
The Council is waiting for Natural England to approve a new Ilkley Moor Management Plan which sets out the local authority’s intention to seek funding from a new agri-environment scheme. The moor’s existing Countryside Stewardship scheme ends this year.
Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, the Council’s executive member for regeneration, planning and transport, said: “Our focus is now on implementing the objectives of the plan to manage the heathland, increase tree coverage in appropriate areas, restore peat and blanket bog and reduce flood risk for the surrounding areas.”
CAMPAIGNERS WELCOME DECISION
Ban Bloodsports on Ilkley Moor has called for shooting rights to be withdrawn since 2014.
Group spokesman Luke Steele praised the Council’s decision, saying: “It reflects the urgent need to reverse wildlife decline, habitat degradation and public dismay which has overshadowed this treasured moorland since grouse shooting was introduced in 2008.
“We thank all of those who have relentlessly pursued an end to grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor. Our efforts will now turn to reversing the terrible legacy of grouse shooting on the moor in pursuit of a first-class asset for the region, which promotes wildlife biodiversity, education, leisure and the local economy.”
Bradford East Labour MP Naz Shah also made public her support of the Council’s decision.