January 31, 2012

Law firm Gordons undertakes Walshaw Moor Estate Grouse Moor inquiry

Yorkshire law firm Gordons is acting on behalf of Walshaw Moor Estate in a public inquiry into an appeal which seeks to restrict management activities that have taken place on its grouse moor, including prescribed burning of heather and grazing.

Walshaw Moor Estate either owns, or has the benefit of sporting rights leased to it over, approximately 6,475 hectares of Walshaw and Lancashire Moors which are mainly managed as driven grouse moors.

The moors are part of the South Pennine Moors Site of Special Scientific Interest, the South Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the South Pennine Moors Special Protection Area (SPA).

The appeal is against a Notice of Modification of Consent issued by Natural England, pursuant to section 28E(6), Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and the inquiry is taking place at the Novotel, on Whitehall Road in Leeds. The five week inquiry is due to run until February 10, 2012.

The inquiry will consider important questions of moorland ecology, grazing and burning of heather for grouse rearing in areas of blanket bog and heathland habitats. It will also consider the powers and duties that the Secretary of State has under the Habitats Directive and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Natural England is now seeking a ban on all burning of heather on blanket bog, whether or not it has been burned previously.

The Gordons team is led by head of commercial litigation, Matthew Howarth. Gordons has instructed David Elvin QC, James Maurici and Richard Moules, counsel at Landmark Chambers.

The same legal team also acts for the Walshaw Moor Estates in relation to judicial review proceedings arising out of the service of an additional Notice under Regulation 23, Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, served by Natural England in December 2011.

That Notice was stayed by the Administrative Court in Leeds following an urgent interim application. Following a day’s hearing at the High Court before Mr Justice Singh, Gordons successfully obtained a continuance of the stay.

The Judge noted that the case was one of potential importance and public interest and gave permission for the Walshaw Moor Estate to judicially review the actions of Natural England. A two day hearing has been listed at the Administrative Court next month.

The judicial review will consider the wider implications of a total ban on burning, use of vehicles and grazing on deep peat which would have enormous ramifications for the rural economy and grouse moor estates throughout England.