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United Utilities starts to back-pedal on decision

The water company has now agreed that it will engage with the affected shoots to try to work out the full impact of its announcement

grouse shooting

Gamekeepers and shoot managers have commented that the decision appears to have been rushed through

It is a month now since the troubled water provider, United Utilities, announced – to much initial cheer on social media – that it would not be renewing any licences for grouse shooting to tenants on its land. The company, which was reported almost 70,000 times for sewage leaks in 2022, said that the move marked a significant change in its approach to land management. Shooting Times spoke to a number of gamekeepers and shoot managers on the ground just as the news was breaking, who said that they had received a letter from the company’s agent but that the whole thing seemed to have been rushed through.

It now appears that United Utilities is of the same retrospective opinion. The team at BASC announced last week that in response to them raising fierce concerns on behalf of their members, Louise Beardmore (the reportedly vegetarian CEO of United Utilities) had agreed that they would actually engage with the 23 shoots affected by the decision in order to try to work out the full impact of their move.

Peter Pedder, a veteran shoot operator and one of those impacted, told ST that it’s not just a conservation issue, but that there are also jobs at stake. Clearly there are gamekeepers’ jobs at stake, but Mr Pedder also highlighted the work that these shoots provide for often up to 40 beaters.

ST reached out to a leading London public relations professional, who said that it seems like a classic error. Every decision made, he notes, needs to consider every aspect and every angle and, crucially, companies should never just consider one audience.

He wonders really, he told ST, whether this was a fight worth them getting involved in. From his own experience, he told us that consultation processes are timely and expensive. But perhaps in this case, United Utilities will end up with a better understanding of those out on the ground who are affected by decisions taken in the comfort of their offices.