Regulatory burden on shooting needs resetting

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‘Microregulation’ of shooting is being prioritised over crucial restoration and enhancement projects, according to a new paper by leading rural and shooting organisations.

Published by the Aim to Sustain partnership the white paper, titled ‘Shooting for a Level Playing Field’, highlights the legal irregularities that impede shooting activities within the Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) process in England and Wales.

HRA’s are undertaken by regulatory authorities on protected sites to assess whether a ‘plan’ or ‘project’ proposal could ‘adversely effect’ the designated features of the site. With many shooting activities currently requiring HRA’s the paper summarises the key issues and recommendations to aid Defra’s working group who are undertaking a review of the process.

There are multiple examples that show inconsistent and overly precautionary vigour towards shooting disciplines such as wildfowling, pest control and clay pigeon shooting.

Lead author, Marnie Lovejoy, BASC’s head of environmental law, said: “The unduly precautionary and discriminatory approach towards all types of shooting means the regulators are spending more time filling in forms rather than protecting and enhancing our most important habitats. This review presents the shooting community with an opportunity to re-set the balance.

“Shooting provides a significant conservation effort, at no cost to the public purse. Yet this is routinely ignored by those regulating shooting. The activity contributes to less than 1% of disturbance and activity on protected sites, yet it is regulated at the highest level. On the ground conservation practitioners should be viewed as an asset rather than dismissed as undesirable by-product.

“Shooting organisations are not seeking the weakening of environment protections, just a fair, proportionate and more efficient process applied equally across different land uses.”