Press release from Hebden Bridge

North East to old dike hill,_burning_lores_16Feb16

Press release about Hebden Bridge protests on Friday and Saturday:



Hebden Bridge people will gather in St Georges Square at 9am on 12th and 13th August to protest the not-so-glorious 12th August, traditionally the start of the grouse shooting season.

It is widely accepted that mismanagement of the Walshaw Moor blanket bogs for intensive grouse rearing has contributed to three severe floods in Hebden Bridge over the last four years, and downstream in the Calder Valley.

Some households and businesses have still not recovered from the terrible Boxing Day flood last year, when the town centre was under up to five feet of filthy water.

Protesters are calling for Richard Bannister, the owner of Walshaw Moor Estate, to urgently take ecological conservation and restoration measures that will significantly reduce peak flow in Hebden Water.

Although as an EU Natura 2000 site Walshaw Moor has the highest possible level of environmental protection, the landowner’s agreement with Natural England permits so-called “cool burning of heather, as well as extensive track building and draining within 50 metres of the many grouse shooting butts gouged out of the peat.

Supported by £2.5m of taxpayer subsidies via Environmental Stewardship payments for “restoring” the moors,  the owner of Walshaw Moor, Richard Bannister leaves vast swathes of precious peatland scarred with vehicle tracks  and drained and burnt dry – although the permitted “cool burning’ is supposed not to damage the sphagnum moss that grows on moorland peat and is vital for the survival of the blanket bog.

This is all so that unnaturally large populations of red grouse can be nurtured as live targets for ‘guns’.

Leeds University research, led by Dr Lee Brown and published in 2014, confirms Ban the Burn campaigners’ criticisms of the Walshaw Moor Estate burning.

In all areas that the Leeds University researchers looked at over a period of five years, permitted cool burning destroyed the sphagnum moss and left bare peat.

It also lowered the water table so the peat dried out, oxidised and became a source of net carbon loss – rather than a net carbon uptake through taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and sinking it into the peat. This worsens climate change.

Dr Joseph Holden’s 2015 update to this research confirmed that the destruction of the sphagnum by permitted burning on blanket bog also increases the amount and speed of water runoff during the worst 20% of storms, so worsening the risk of flooding in areas below the moors.

In response to a complaint from local residents’ group Ban the Burn, the European Commission has started a legal process against the UK government for:

  • the failure to carry out appropriate assessments on the Walshaw Moor  Estate in the South Pennines Natura 2000 site, and other Natura 2000 sites, as required under the EU Habitats Directive in relation to a number of management agreements
  • allowing burning of blanket bogs within the Natura 2000 sites
  • the failure to avoid deterioration of blanket bog habitats within those sites in England

The UK government had two months to respond to the EU Commission letter, which was sent on 29th April 2016. This is the first step in a legal process. But with the UK vote to leave the EU, Yorkshire and Humberside MEP Linda McAvan has said it is unclear whether the European Commission is following up the process.

Hebden Bridge residents are determined to keep up the pressure to protect and restore the rare and valuable blanket bog and in doing so, to reduce the flood risk to the town and the downstream Calder Valley.



Hebden Bridge is in the Calder Valley parliamentary constituency and has recorded the highest number of signatures of any of the 650 constituencies for our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive


26 Replies to “Press release from Hebden Bridge”

  1. Good luck to the Hebden Bridge community, they need justice. £2.5m of public funding to exacerbate situation – did NE take account of all material evidence when they gave WME the agreement?

    Perhaps Mr Bannister and his companion of honour will turn up and address the gathering before heading up onto the moor for a bit of sport facilitated by public funds?

    Demonstrable public benefit?

  2. Rather than in St Georges Square I would have thought they might have gathered on Walshaw Moor for their protest. No doubt it will get lots of media coverage, which will help the petition. I look forward to reading about in the Daily Mail.

    1. PeterD – i guess they feel they will meet lots more people in St Georges Square and spread the message further. That seems sensible to me.

  3. Gathering 9am in St.George’s Square. At 9.30am proceeding up to the moors. Take a picnic and frisbees!

  4. 1000 signatures so far today with, if it’s going to be a typical day, a four or five hour period of increased signing rate about to begin.

    1. Yes pretty amazing isn’t it! Has the petition reached some sort of critical mass?

  5. Let’s each find one person who hasn’t signed, if they need internet access give them it, if they haven’t got an email address set one up. Don’t just accept that you’ve already signed, we all must be able to find one person. Let’s go for 110,000

    1. Remember that ‘they’ are quite likely to want to see a percentage as void, so yes we’ll need to make sure we pass the 100k just to be certain?

      What are the chances that they’ll set up a surge of social media to call for a recount alongside accusations of duplicates or invalid signatures such is the level of their contempt for the tax paying public?

      Sorry, I’m not being negative – merely politely realistic?

      Look at their recent repeats and lest we forget: Let’s support that petition as well?

  6. A slight drop in total from the recent highs, but i’ll settle for 1535 for the day!

    6th – 1924
    7th – 2598
    8th – 1958
    9th – 2040
    10th – 1535

    5 day total = 10,055
    5 day average = 2011

    The ‘steady pace’ day rate has now dropped to 430 for the last 41 days.

  7. no one seems to understand the fact that shooting on the moors and burning of the bogs has been going on for many many years before last years floods and this to my knowledge has never been to blame before, trying to ban grouse shooting will leave a massive gap in seasonal employment for the youth of this town as there is not much unskilled work available in the hebden bridge area. I myself have worked for many years on these moors and it is not flooding the town. looking for someone with lots of money to blame is not the answer. has anyone on this page considered the fact this this will not stop flooding? it may reduce the amount of flood water, but the valley will flood regardless of bog burning due to the positioning of houses and business ext. in my opinion this is a waste of peoples time and money that could be used to improving people still affected by the floods rather than using anger to point blame?

    1. It’s not us ‘on this page’ saying that management of moors upstream adds to flood risk, it’s independent peer reviewed scientific research from Leeds University and others which Mark has referred to. It concerns me to hear of the issue of poor employment prospects in H Bridge but not convinced that intensive management of the moors for shooting is the answer – the fear must be that environmental damage will ultimately undermine the town’s economy such that flood hit businesses may no longer be viable.

    2. I don’t think anybody is saying that the management of the moors above is solely responsible for the flooding in Hebden Bridge – plainly that would be ridiculous. There is some evidence however that the intensification of land management at Walshaw Moor is a contributory factor. Surely the plethora of new drains, grips and tracks cannot have escaped your attention?

      A report by the University of Leeds (see link below) estimates that the total economic impact to the Calderdale and Kirklees regional economy resulting from the 2015 floods amounted to a total of approximately £170 million.

      If improved land management practices on the moors above Hebden Bridge reduced the impact of the floods by just 5%, then you could argue that this would benefit the local economy to the tune of £8.5 million – that places the economic benefit of employing a 100 or so beaters being employed on a short term seasonal basis into perspective wouldn’t you agree?

      I’m completely sympathetic to the dearth of employment opportunities that you rightly highlight – and it makes be angry when I think of how many long-term employment opportunities could be created in the Hebden Bridge area by the £2.5m of taxpayers money which is currently subsidising a multimillionaire’s environmentally and economically damaging hobby.

    3. The burning and Draining off as NEVER BEEN as intensive as it has been since the Walshaw Estate was bought from 2002 to the present day..Hence to get the Grouse bags up from 100 brace to 3000 brace which is What as happened,in order to boost those artificial numbers of Grouse that can be Shot. And this intensity of management can only have a detrimental effect on our Uplands and environment,it certainly can’t be helping matters.

  8. It’s worth looking into the details of this specific case, James, including the (illegal – there is a bit of an ongoing court case, you may have heard of it) changes to land management. As you have been working on the moors surely you have noticed a few of the things that have been going on?

  9. Out of interest, James, what’s the current day rate for a beater on the moor you work on (don’t worry, I won’t be applying for a job)?

    1. One might wonder if it’ll even be minimum wage?

      Wonder if they get to take free samples of toxic lead contaminated meat home as a bonus?

      ‘Grouse’ apart, we all have sympathies for employment issues James but you deserve better than crumbs from the ‘master’s table’?

      £2.5m of public money for trashing a sensitive ecosytem which should be delivering ecosystem services (hate the term) for public benefit.

  10. I never ceased to be amazed at the stoical approach of the British in adversity! If this was the U.S., someone from H.B. would have gone up to the moor and shot the bastard!

Comments are closed.