CLAY pigeon and game shooting is on the rise and helping to boost East Lancashire's rural economy, a study claims to prove.

Traditional farming areas are reaping rewards from the popularity of sporting shoots, the survey says.

According to the survey, commissioned by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Countryside Alliance, the North West economy benefits by £160m a year while a further 6,500 people are employed in jobs related to shooting and conservation across the region.

The survey says that shooting generated over £2 billion annually for the UK economy.

The report also says that shooting provides 70,000 jobs in the UK, compared to a turnover of £653m and 40,000 jobs when the last survey was carried out in 1997.

John Roberts, who has a dairy and sheep farm on Henthorn Road, Clitheroe, says he now runs a country sports store.

Mr Roberts, 36, who set up Claytime Limited 18 months ago, said: "We do see an increase in sales at this time of year.

"Sales are steady all year round and with Christmas coming up all retailers are seeing an increase.

"It's not just about game shooting it's also about clay shooting but at this time of year the sale of game guns does increase along with cartridges and winter clothing.

"There has been an increase in the amount of young people taking it up. Shooting is the biggest participation growth sport in the UK at the moment. We see five or six new certificate holders a week in this one shop.

"We run our own small shoot on the conservation side of things in the Ribble Valley. There's quite a big following of game shoots run by non-profit making bodies in the area. People are employed to maintain the landscape, it's about making the environment right for game birds which then makes it right for other creatures."

A spokesman for Ken Varey's Outdoor World, Newmarket Street, Clitheroe, confirmed that they were currently seeing a seasonal surge in sales as the shooting season got in to full swing.

Douglas Chalmers, director for CLA North, said: "Our rural economy is rapidly changing, and shooting plays a major part.

"It continues to create new businesses and brings new money into the countryside.

"The decline in our traditional rural industries can lead to social and environmental problems, and shooting is one way of redressing these. Much of this money comes into and is in areas where there are limits to viable diversification options, and at a time of year when other trade is minimal."