Big Hebden Bridge call for Yorkshire Water to stop grouse shooting on its land


Ban the Burn was one of 17 groups across Yorkshire that took part in Yorkshire Water Day of Action on 25th May, organised by StopThe Shoot.

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People queued up at the Ban the Burn stall in St George’s Square to sign petition  cards to Yorkshire Water’s Chief Executive Officer, saying they want an end to grouse shooting on the water company’s land. All 100 cards were signed in just over an hour.

All the signed petition cards

All the signed petition cards

If you missed the chance to sign the petition postcard, you can contact Yorkshire Water on social media – tweet @YorkshireWater and on Facebook. Make sure they understand that you’d like them to pull the plug on grouse shooting and become an environmental champion.

Yorkshire Water is one of the largest landowners in Yorkshire which leases its land to
grouse shoots, where tens of thousands of birds are shot for ‘fun’ – and the profit of the
grouse shooting tenants.

On its grouse shooting land – as on other grouse shooting estates – large sections of
heather moorland are set on fire to engineer optimal breeding habitat for red grouse –
damaging sensitive peatland habitat. Air and water are polluted and rare breeding birds
can no longer make the degraded moors their home.

Many other animals such as stoats, weasels, birds and other wild animals are trapped,
snared and shot on the estates to ensure red grouse make it into the air to be used as
living targets.

Thanks to all the people who signed the petition card to Yorkshire Water

Ros Berrington, from Ban the Burn, said:

“Thanks to all the people in Hebden Bridge on Saturday who signed the card to Yorkshire Water. People were aware of the issues and eager to tell Yorkshire Water to stop grouse shooting on Walshaw Moor above Hebden Bridge.

“The residents of the Calder Valley are at the sharp end of climate change, with several serious floods from extreme rainfall in recent years. That’s why we had so much support in our campaign to stop Yorkshire Water leasing their land to Grouse shooting estates.

Mismanaging the moors for grouse shooting increases Hebden Water flood levels, destroys blanket bog, worsens climate change and kills off many native animals to increase Grouse numbers. All so they can be shot for trophy hunting.”

Most Yorkshire Water grouse shooting tenants haven’t signed up to government scheme to end burning on blanket bog

Richard Bannister, owner of Walshaw Moor Estate, is Yorkshire Water’s grouse shooting
tenant on their land around Widdop and other nearby reservoirs.

Along with the majority of the water company’s grouse shooting tenants, Richard Bannister has failed to add his name to the government’s scheme to end burning over blanket bog.

The government introduced the voluntary scheme in the hope of avoiding legislation to
bring grouse moor management in line with EU regulations that protect peatland habitats.

When Natural England gave consent to burn blanket bog on Walshaw Moor Estate, after inexplicably dropping its legal case against the Estate for mismanaging the highly protected Natura 2000 land, Bannister’s intensive burning of the moor prompted the RSPB to lodge complaints with the European Commission.

In 2013, Ban the Burn also took a complaint to the European Commission.

As a result, in 2016, the European Commission launched its investigation into Walshaw
Moor estate’s practice of burning heather on blanket bog. Because deep peat should be
maintained or restored to healthy blanket bog.

This led to European Commission proceedings against the UK for breaking binding EU regulations protecting peatland habitats and wildlife.

The UK Government admitted to the European Commission that, in addition to Walshaw Moor Estate, grouse moors are the only places in England with Natural England’s permission to burn blanket bog on Special Areas of Conservation and that management activities, including burning, are funded by EU agri-environment money.

The UK Government made a commitment to the European Commission to carry out a review of these permissions,  following completion of Natural England’s review of its upland evidence.

Natural England’s evidence review concluded that ongoing burning of blanket bog habitat would prevent its maintenance and restoration

But rather than introduce legislation banning burning, in order to make sure that
landowners maintain and restore blanket bog,  the Defra minister Michael Gove chose
to trust landowners to stick to a voluntary pledge to stop rotational heather burning.

It’s a sign of the weakness of this measure that  Richard Bannister – whose mismanagement of Wlashaw Moor Estate created problems for the UK government in the first place –  doesn’t appear to have signed up to Mr Gove’s voluntary deal. Along with most of Yorkshire Water’s grouse shooting tenants.

So Ban the Burn, along with other campaign groups, has asked Michael Gove to ban burning on upland peatlands. We’re not holding our breath.

What’s Natural England doing to make sure Walshaw Moor Estate is sticking to its Environmental Stewardship agreement?

Ban the Burn urgently want to know what Natural England’s doing to make sure Walshaw Moor Estate is complying with its agreement to manage and restore the estate’s habitats and wildlife. For which it’s being paid £2.5m of public subsidies.

Particularly in the light of this recent evidence that doesn’t look anything like restoring the peatland habitats (please click on each picture for full view):

Yorkshire Water likes to claim it’s an industry leader in environmental protection and conserving wildlife

So why does it continue to allow grouse shooting on its land? The company has also admitted native wildlife is being killed to ensure large numbers of red grouse can be shot for entertainment.

Ban the Burn and other campaign groups working with Stop the Shoot are asking Yorkshire Water to become the environmental champion it aims to be by pulling the plug on grouse shooting.

Blanket Bog 1: Walshaw Moor Estate 0. Stone and timber access tracks won’t be built

The Walshaw Moor Estate proposed new stone and timber track across protected blanket bog will not go ahead, thanks to the efforts of local residents who objected to the planning application, Mark Avery’s legal challenge to Natural England, and Natural England’s resulting withdrawal of support for the track.

On 19th March this year, Walshaw Moor Estate emailed Calderdale Council Planning Services to withdraw their APPLICATION 18/00237/FUL. Continue reading

Walshaw Moor Estate resumes burning – despite flood risk to Hebden Bridge

As is by now widely known, Walshaw Moor Estate’s annual burning on the protected “Natura 2000” uplands creates an increased risk of flooding in Calder Valley towns.

This is responsible for around 2.5-5% of the peak flow in Hebden Bridge during floods – roughly the difference between over-topping flood barriers in shop and home doorways, and staying below that level. Continue reading

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New Durham University study finds ANY burning on Walshaw Moor Estate increases flood risk in Hebden Bridge

A new modelling study and investigation into how annual burning on the Walshaw Moor Estate (WME) may affect high river flows in Hebden Bridge has shown that the most effective way of managing the moors in order to reduce the peak flow at Hebden Bridge is to eliminate burning and encourage conservation and restoration of Sphagnum. Over time, this will allow sphagnum to replace some or much of the cotton and moorland grasses and heather.

Practiced over the whole Hebden Water catchment, this management for sphagnum restoration would reduce the peak flow at Hebden Bridge by between 5%-10%.
Continue reading

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Ban the Burn campaigners’ glorious walk to sadly degraded Walshaw Moor blanket bog

Hebden Bridge residents and business people gathered in St Georges Square at 9am on 12th and 13th August – the start of the grouse shooting season – to protest against the devastation of Walshaw Moor’s blanket bog and other habitats by industrial – scale grouse rearing. They then walked up to Walshaw Moor for a picnic and fun day that included checking the state of the blanket bog. Continue reading

Grouse shooting: environmentally destructive big business

Grouse moor owners, supported by millions of pounds of taxpayer subsidies, brutally kill and maim a huge number of wild animals and leave vast swathes of precious peatland drained burnt dry and scarred with vehicle tracks. This is all so that unnaturally large populations of red grouse can be nurtured as live targets for ‘guns’. Here are some Animal Aid videos about the intensively-managed grouse moor on Walshaw Moor Estate above Hebden Bridge, ahead of the Inglorious 12th August.

Continue reading

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Big Brexit question mark over EU legal action against UK government for failing to protect Walshaw Moor

Following the EU Referendum vote, Linda McAvan MEP has said it’s unclear what effect the vote for the UK to leave the EU is going to have on the EU Commission’s pursuit of the Ban the Burn complaint about violations of EU Natura 2000 protections on Walshaw Moor Estate.

Linda said that she can’t give a definitive  answer to this question, since all is up in the air, but she guesses that given that EU legal cases are premised on continued EU membership,  she can’t see why the Commission would invest time in pursuing the prosecution if the UK is going to be out of the EU.   Continue reading

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Vote remain! EU Commission has started legal process against UK government for conservation breaches on Walshaw Moor Estate

Here is a reason to remain in the EU – the European Commission has started a legal process against the UK government for:

Continue reading

Help monitor blanket bog burning on Walshaw Moor – Tuesday 15 March

Walshaw Moor Estate grouse shooting business is burning the blanket bog to such an extent that it is exposing and breaking the surface of the peat. This is not allowed under the conditions of the Estate’s Environmental Stewardship Agreement with Natural England.

Upper Calderdale Wildlife Group are monitoring the burning but they need help. If you’d like to learn how to be a burning monitor, please join them at 2pm on Tuesday 15 March at  Widdop Gate, at the start of the track to Gorple Lower reservoir (on the left hand side of the road coming from Hebden Bridge). Continue reading

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George Monbiot in the pulpit – rewilding is a source of hope and a challenge to the 1%

Joking that he felt like an old-time hell-fire preacher speaking from the pulpit of Hope Baptist Church, George Monbiot instead brought a vision of hope to the packed audience yesterday at Hebden Bridge Arts Festival.

Launching a national rewilding group – [ now launched, one year on] – he extolled the delights of an environment where biodiverse plants, insects and animals flourish thanks to the reintroduction of keystone species at the top of the food chain – such as beavers, pine martins and wolves. Continue reading

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