Shooting on Yorkshire Water land
As one of the region’s biggest landowners we take our environmental responsibilities very seriously. Over the last 10 years, we have invested in extensive monitoring, research and innovative land maintenance and restoration techniques which have delivered a range of industry-leading activities which help to both protect water quality, and improve biodiversity.
However, whilst we are one of the region’s biggest landowners, we do not have control over everything that happens on our land. In some areas, whilst we own the freehold of the land, we do not own the shooting rights. This complex position is largely a result of decisions taken prior to privatisation of the water industry in 1989, when land ownership was transferred to Yorkshire Water. Where we do own shooting rights, these are let out and are generally on long running historical agreements. These tenancies include the right to carry out shooting and associated land management activities on the land, so long as it is within the law. This means that we are not in a position to control or prohibit shooting and associated activity including the use of snares and traps on many areas of our land.
In recent years we have been working with a wide range of stakeholders, including environmental organisations, statutory agencies, tenant farmers and the owners of the shooting rights, to tackle a range of water quality issues such as peatland restoration, pesticides, nitrates and saline intrusion. This collaborative approach has made great progress and has enabled us to jointly deliver innovative projects which deliver for everyone with an interest in our land.
In areas where we do have ownership of the shooting rights, Yorkshire Water has historically taken the approach that working with stakeholders to agree a mutually beneficial approach to land management can achieve more than banning certain activities, including shooting, on our land. This approach is based on many years of experience of working on the uplands across the region.
Our view is that taking a confrontational approach by ending shooting where we have the power to do so would be counter-productive at this current time. The existing agreements that are in place around shooting rights mean that ending shooting in the areas where we own the rights would take until 2033. This means that there would initially be very little impact from a decision to ban shooting and taking such a confrontational approach would damage our relationships with a range of stakeholders who we need to work with in other areas.
There are 3,530 ha of Yorkshire Water owned land where shooting rights are owned by third parties and where banning shooting is therefore not an option. Our current collaborative approach means we have been able to achieve a great deal for the environment by working in partnership in these areas to improve biodiversity, peatland and water quality.
There are also significant areas of land owned by third parties where our current approach has enabled us to build relationships and carry out substantial environmental restoration projects that simply would not have been possible without a constructive relationship between us and the key stakeholders in the area.
Our approach also enabled us to make significant progress in bringing people together to initiate the development of the government’s blanket bog strategy, which is helping to have a positive environmental impact beyond the Yorkshire region.
A decision to ban shooting would put all this progress at risk by damaging relationships with key stakeholders, without having any real impact in the short and medium term in the areas where shooting was banned.
Our ultimate aim is to ensure that we deliver the best possible environmental outcomes on our land. At the current time we believe this aim is best served by working together with all stakeholders in partnership. However, we do constantly evaluate the situation to ensure that our approach is continuing to deliver for the environment.