Conservationists have made fresh allegations that walkers have been denied access to parts of Ilkley Moor by shooting parties.
The Friends of Ilkley Moor (FOIM) say they have received “credible” reports of confrontations during the grouse season but the head of the Bingley Moor Partnership, which owns shooting rights on Rombalds Moor, has said there have been no recent conflicts.
In its latest newsletter, FOIM chairman Owen Wells said that the rights of walkers always transcended those of the shoot.
He said: “We have first-hand information that one of our members was told that they could not proceed on a path because a shoot was in progress. There is no excuse for this. Walkers have priority on Ilkley Moor, and have every right to continue their walk regardless of any inconvenience that may be caused to the shoot. This is not necessarily the case on Burley Moor except when the walker is on a public footpath.”
He added that shooting parties should put out warning signs and suggested that volunteers from FOIM could accompany them as independent marshals.
He said: “We do think that on the day of a shoot, signs are a way of diffusing possible conflicts so that walkers will know to go in a different direction. We are also happy to provide volunteers so we can simply be there to make sure that everything is done as it should be, as impartial observers.
“We are not looking for conflict in any way but wish to ensure that things are done properly and diffuse any possible problems before they happen.”
FOIM has already issued two papers on good practice for walkers and shooting, which state that dogs should be kept of a lead between March 1 and July 31 to protect nesting birds and that gamekeepers are allowed to ask for animals to be kept under control. But if a walker declines to turn back, marshals must instruct the guns to stop firing.
The Bingley Moor Partnership won the contract to run grouse shoots on the moor in 2008, but must provide moorland management support to Bradford Council as part of the deal, including the services of a gamekeeper.
Member Edward Bromet said only a few days shooting a year took place on Ilkley Moor and that the matter in question had been resolved amicably.
“There was no conflict between a shoot and a walker,” he said. “It was a perfectly amiable conversation and the walker very happily waited until the shoot had taken place.
“We brief our employees very carefully about the rights of walkers and it all works very well indeed. I hope Ilkley town understands our significant investment in the moor, which can only lead to improvements. Shooting is only a few days but the main advantage is the year-round work going on on the moor.”
He added that signs would only serve to encourage militant animal rights campaigners but that they were happy to continue talks with FOIM about using independent marshals.