A decision by United Utilities has been described as a travesty for conservation and a body-blow to rural businesses already reeling from the effects of the Covid pandemic.

United Utilities’ decision to ban shooting on its land means an estimated 30 shoots will be shut down.

But the work that is carried out on land managed for shooting goes much, much further than simply the shooting and the knock-on effects of this decision – which was made behind the scenes with no consultation with the wider rural community – will be absolutely devastating.

Duncan Thomas, BASC North director, labelled the decision a “disaster for wildlife and habitats” and “a travesty for practical conservation”.

He said jobs will be lost, the rural economy will suffer and hands-on conservation projects overseen by shoots will cease. He said: “People are angry and frustrated.

"Shoots have worked closely with United Utilities for decades, this decision is an insult to all that  proactive and practical work.

“There is anger and frustration across the board. United Utilities has significantly damaged its local reputation with a decision that makes a mockery of its apparent vision for a thriving uplands”.

Charles Bowman from The Inn at Whitewell labelled the decision “astounding and incomprehensible”.

He said: “The shocking news that United Utilities have withdrawn shooting leases from all their holdings comes as another body-blow, especially for rural inns like the Inn at Whitewell.

"We have weathered the pandemic, keeping all our staff, with the hope we could return to some sort of normality. The high-handed action by United Utilities shows no regard for rural communities and a complete disregard for the social and economic impact that action will have. This is an ill-considered and destructive action that will threaten rural jobs, businesses and community life.”

Peter Pedder, shoot tenant and land manager, said the move was “disastrous”. He said “It’s about people’s lives – our gamekeeper will lose his house, his kids will have to leave the local school. We have 40 part-time workers with no way of keeping them on, that’s not to mention the social value for people”.

For more information visit: www.basc.org.uk

Lancashire Telegraph: