By Will Finch
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
National Trust says shoots are not threatened, but many are becoming nervous their licences will not be renewed.
The National Trust has denied claims that further shoots on Trust land will inevitably close due to being at the mercy of prejudiced estate managers with no knowledge of rural traditions.
The Trust’s comments follow last week’s confirmation that a shoot at the Polesden Lacey estate near Dorking in Surrey would be terminated for fear of disturbing visitors.
The decision not to renew the lease for a shoot described by many as ‘exemplary’ (Shooting Times Shoot Report, November 30th) provoked uproar in both the shooting press and the national media, and many in the shooting community expect further terminations of leases to follow.
Shooters are particularly worried that visitor experience managers are charged with boosting visitor numbers at the expense of other considerations, including established relationships and rural traditions.
However, a Trust spokesperson told Shooting Times that the suggestion that there was an inevitability about decisions to terminate shoots was “simply not the case”.
She said: “We have around 200 shoots operating on our land, and in some places we have to make decisions based on the pressures that the estates are under.”
“The land on which the shoot at Polesden Lacey operated is a ravishingly beautiful valley, but it was enjoyed by only a small number of people.”
“In this one case, a tough decision had to be made, but all our estates are different, just as all our shoots are different. We certainly expect shoots to be a part of the Trust in the years ahead.”
Many shooters are also concerned that the Trust’s willingness to devolve decision making powers to a local level means that prejudiced anti-shooting property managers are able to ban shoots on their estates on ideological grounds using the “increased access” route as a catch-all excuse.
The spokesperson said: “Our general managers are empowered to make decisions about what goes on on their estates, but they operate within a very clear policy framework.”
“That policy is explicit with regard to shooting — we do everything in our power to ensure it continues where it is a traditional part of our estates, but always subject to the demands of conservation and access.”
The Countryside Alliance’s shooting campaigns manager, David Taylor, also accused the Trust of letting its commercial interests take undue precedent.
He said: “Shooting was an integral part of the fabric of Polesden Lacey and of Wallington in Northumberland [where a shoot was also terminated last year]. Before being passed into trust, shooting played a major role in the landscaping of many National Trust estates.”
“Since then, private syndicates have continued this tradition and maintained that very landscape. The National Trust was founded ‘with the aim of saving our nation’s heritage’.
“By preventing shooting on its estates, the National Trust is sending a clear signal that saving heritage has become secondary to commercial opportunity.”
“This was not the intention of those who bequeathed their estates, nor is it the wish of the Trust’s paying members.”
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