In 1893, the Ilkley Local Board bought Ilkley Moor from Marmaduke Francis Middleton for the then enormous sum of £13,500. The reason for the purchase was that there was seen to be a conflict between the shooting interests (represented by Middleton) and the rights of the public to enjoy the Moor. That decision resonates today.
At about the same time that the Friends of Ilkley Moor was being formed, Bradford MDC entered into a lease with the Bingley Moor Partnership allowing the Partnership the shooting rights to the Moor. The amount of money paid for the rights was relatively small and the argument that persuaded Bradford MDC was the extra management that the shoot would put into the maintenance of the Moor.
Up until June 2011, FoIM has retained a strict neutrality on the subject of shooting on Ilkley Moor, however, after a careful consideration of the arguments, the FoIM committee decided that we could no longer keep to this position. It appeared that (just as in 1893) there was an inherent conflict between the public right of access and the public’s ability to enjoy the Moor, and the interests of the shoot. In essence the interests of the shoot are that there should be as few people as possible on the Moor during both the breeding and the shooting season, to minimise the disturbance of the breeding grouse and to minimise the interference with shooting.
From the point of view of FoIM, the Moor should always be a friendly and welcoming place for walkers. This is important too, for the economic well-being of the town. We have firm evidence on the harmful effects to the commercial interests in the town when the Moor was closed during the foot and mouth epidemic, and it is our contention that if the Moor became known as a place where a walker might experience an unpleasant confrontation with a gamekeeper, then this would have a directly detrimental effect on businesses in Ilkley. We regret that there have been a number of such incidents reported to us.
The FoIM committee is aware that there is now a debate among conservation bodies as to whether management of a moor for grouse shooting has a beneficial effect or otherwise on the quality of the environment for species other than grouse. One of the aims of a shoot is the elimination of species that predate grouse. Thus the shoot is allowed, under the terms of the lease, to kill magpies, jays, corvids, stoats, weasels and fox. We are also aware that some gamekeepers (and we make no accusation about keepers for the Bingley Moor Estate) illegally kill raptors. There is a contrary view in conservation circles that a healthy population of prey species can support a population of predators and that predators and prey are a necessary part in any natural ecosystem. FoIM takes the view that Ilkley Moor should be managed to benefit all species and not just grouse and that we wish to see Red Kite and Kestrel flying over the Moor just as much as we wish to see Grouse, Redshank, Curlew and Oyster Catcher.
The shooting lease has a break clause allowing Bradford MDC to determine the lease at no cost (subject to six months notice) at any time after 1.5.2013. FoIM presented evidence to a meeting of the relevant Councilors to request that notice be given by 1.11.2012 to end the lease. Thus it was the hope of the FoIM committee that there would be only one more shooting season on the Moor after 2011. Unfortunately, Bradford Council decided to break the lease, but renewed it subject to various conditions.
It is noteworthy that the income Bradford MDC has derived from the lease is very considerably less than the money FoIM has raised to spend on the Moor. It is our view that the primary function of the Moor is to provide space for the exercise and relaxation of the public. It is for that reason it was purchased in 1893 and we believe that the leasing of the shooting rights has tended to diminish and not enhance the public’s right of access to the Moor. The Friends of Ilkley Moor, representing a considerably body of public opinion within the locality, is therefore opposed to the granting of shooting rights on Ilkley Moor and calls upon Bradford Metropolitan District Council to end the lease at the earliest opportunity.