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Fowl play on the Humber

One of nation?s most iconic wildfowling foreshores is under threat from Natural England legislation. Two 50-year-old wildfowling associations on the north bank of the Humber estuary ? the Hull & East Riding Wildfowlers? Association (HERWA) and the Holdness & Humber Wildfowling Association (HHWA) ? are in danger of losing a large proportion of their wildfowling land if they are forced to accept what they feel are unjustified and arbitrary conditions on their SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) consents (the terms by which shooting may take place in those conservation areas).

Ironically, the foreshore in dispute is the area where Stanley Duncan, founder of the Wildfowlers? Association of Great Britain and Ireland (WAGBI), later the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), did most of his wildfowling. It is also adjacent to the site of the ?Black Hut?, Duncan?s base for outings on to the estuary.

Over the past two and a half years the clubs, together with Simon Breasley, of Thyme Consultants, have pursued every avenue to resolve the consent issues at local level, but to no avail. As a result, the clubs are currently preparing an appeal to DEFRA secretary of state David Miliband.

Ken Arkley , secretary of the HERWA, told ST: ?This has been a very frustrating time for us ? each time we thought we had reached agreement with the NE local team on consents and related matters, another problem appeared to materialise to prevent issues being resolved.
?Currently, NE is declining our requests to meet to try to resolve matters. All we want is fair treatment for wildfowling and to come to a satisfactory, workable arrangement with Natural England to allow sustainable wildfowling activity to continue on the Humber as it has done for decades.?

Throughout the process, the two clubs have kept wildfowlers across the UK and Europe abreast of the situation, and responses suggest they are not alone in the fight to preserve their sporting areas.

HHWA chairman Dudley Hulme told ST: ?We have been surprised by the level of interest and support shown by other clubs and individuals from all around the UK ? even to the extent of offers of financial support towards the cost of what could turn out to be a very expensive process. In any event, the clubs cannot afford to accept the conditions as they stand as this would severely restrict wildfowling activity and seriously jeopardise their future.?

BASC is currently working with the clubs towards a resolution. Chief executive John Swift told ST: ?I had a constructive discussion with representatives of HERWA and HHWA on 22 November, in Hull. As a result we are moving forward together and currently endeavouring to restart the stalled discussions with NE. This is being done with the full support of the clubs and in close conjunction with the BASC Wildfowling Liaison Committee.

?It is of utmost importance to find an agreed solution. The Humber estuary serves many other wildfowling clubs and its of huge importance to the sport ? but it is large, industrialised and of international conservation interest, too.?