BRADFORD councillors are being urged to end grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor, as the final season came to an end at the weekend.

Bradford Council is being urged to end grouse shooting on Yorkshire’s iconic beauty spot Ilkley Moor by Ban Bloodsports on Ilkley Moor (BBIM), which is lobbying for an end to the practice. The campaign group has released fresh evidence of damage to rare blanket bog on access routes around shooting butts.

Ban Bloodsports on Ilkley Moor say damage to habitat through grouse shooting is the main driver behind over half of protected breeding bird species having declined or become locally extinct on Ilkley Moor. The wildlife crash, which has negatively impacted on the moor’s population of specialist species, including Merlin, Dunlin and Short Eared Owl, could result in the loss of the site’s conservation designations if declines continue, they claim.

Luke Steele, Spokesperson for BBIM, said: “The past decade of grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor has proven a conservation calamity, with over half of specialist breeding bird species declining or becoming extinct and damage inflicted on rare peatland habitat. Bradford Council has the opportunity to finally put this scandal to bed by not renewing its grouse shooting licence now the final season has come to an end.

“Sheffield, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire Councils and Peak District National Park Authority have each ceased grouse shooting on their upland estates and set successful precedents for Bradford - the last local authority in the UK to allow the practice - to follow. There is strong local public and political support for this endeavour, which will mark a fresh start for Ilkley Moor.”

Bradford Council is the last local authority in the UK to allow grouse shooting to take place on public moorland. Others, including the Peak District National Park Authority and Sheffield Council, already prohibit the practice on their upland estates, having previously allowed it, and now maintain the land using other methods.

Calls for Bradford Council to follow these precedents have received support from some of the region’s most prominent politicians, including John Grogan MP (Keighley & Ilkley), Alex Sobel MP (Leeds North West), Judith Cummins MP (Bradford South), Parish Councillor Henri Murison (Ilkley South) and a cross-party representation of District Councillors. During a recent consultation on the future management of Ilkley Moor, the largest number of submissions received by the local authority on any single topic urged an end to grouse shooting.

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, said: “The precious landscape of Ilkley Moor largely exists as a result of dedicated management. Bradford City Council’s report of 2016 acknowledged the positive impact of gamekeepers on the moor as well as recognising the benefits of heather, wildfire and bracken control associated with grouse moor management. It must also be noted that grouse moor managers are at the forefront of the England’s peatland restoration efforts.

“Along with the social, economic and environmental benefits that grouse shooting and moorland management on Ilkley Moor provides to West Yorkshire, research shows that grouse moors support up to five times as many special birds like the curlew and lapwing, which thrive on managed moors, compared to moorland that is not keepered. Short eared owls and Merlin breed successfully on the neighbouring grouse moors under the same management as Ilkley. On Ilkley Moor 500 acres of the habitat available for these ground nesting birds was destroyed by the devastating wildfire of 2005. Restoration work carried out under the grouse shooting lease will boost bird populations for the future as the vegetation returns. Already Golden Plover are recolonising the area also benefiting from peatland re-wetting carried out by Bingley Moor Partnership on the neighbouring area.”

The Council is expected to announce its decision on whether or not grouse shooting will be permitted to continue in January 2018.