Natural England has rejected criticism of its work that affects grouse moor management in the uplands, and said that a pragmatic approach is the only way forward.

Executive director Andrew Wood?s comments follow suggestions by environmentalists, including writer George Monbiot and former RSPB director of conservation Mark Avery, that the Government?s nature advisory body may be coming under undue pressure from pro-shooting DEFRA ministers.

Avery is particularly concerned about the abandonment earlier this year of Natural England?s legal action against Walshaw Moor, a South Pennines grouse estate accused of damaging a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

But Mr Wood said: ?At Walshaw, we have now entered into a 25-year agreement that provides improved environmental protection for the moors while allowing the estate to conduct its business activities.

?The benefits of the agreement are significant. For the first time, burning activities on the Walshaw estate will be subject to specific controls. The agreement sets restrictions on the maintenance and creation of infrastructure, and an active programme of peat re-wetting has also been agreed so that blanket bog restoration can take place.

?This is a significant step towards improving environmental protection and the conservation status of the site, and we are pleased that we have been able to reach this stage through a negotiated agreement.?

The rest of this article appears in the 13th June issue of Shooting Times.

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