A PETITION calling for a ban on grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor has been referred to Bradford's most senior councillors.

Ilkley-based animal welfare group West Yorkshire Animals in Need presented its petition to a meeting of Bradford Council last week, and councillors voted to refer it to its executive.

Despite outcry from local and national animal groups - including hunt saboteurs - Bradford Council recently handed Bingley Moor Partnership a ten-year contract to hold commercial shoots on the landmark moor.

Although the contract has been signed by the partnership and the council, which owns and maintains the moor, protestors hope to halt shooting before it begins.

Ilkley resident and member of West Yorkshire Animals in Need, Oliver Townsend, questioned the council's decision-making process over the issue.

In 1997, the then Labour-controlled council declined to grant a shooting lease, but the long-term aim of re-introducing grouse shooting has appeared in subsequent moorland management plans.

"No discussion or decision process has occurred and no referral to the full Bradford Council," he told last week's meeting.

However, a full debate on the issue by the council looks unlikely. The petition may simply be noted by the executive, as the contract has already been signed.

Part of the grouse shooting deal means that Bingley Moor Partnership will provide the services of a gamekeeper to help Bradford Council manage the fire-damaged moor.