The Countryside Alliance has confirmed that a proposal made by Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn, to be delivered by Natural Resources Wales, to end the pheasant shooting leases on public land would have a devastating impact on the livelihoods of residents in Mid Wales.
The Alliance has been given permission by one of the leaseholders to reveal the content of documents which were presented to NRW during their review into the use of firearms on public land. These documents reveal an annual spend of over £400,000 from one lease holder alone, spent entirely with businesses in some of the remotest parts of Wales. It also reveals the number of jobs directly dependant on the shoot, all of which are in jeopardy following a Welsh Government intervention that has sent a disturbing ripple of uncertainty through rural Wales.
The list of those whose income depends on the Shoot includes several full time gamekeepers and almost 20 other members of staff who reside within twelve miles of the shoot. Employment in this region is difficult to find, particularly in the winter months. Neither the number of employees nor the annual spend detailed in the documents include the economic impact of the shooting guests who spend money in the local community during the season. Considering the accommodation providers that are set to lose out casts the net of uncertainty even wider, and affects holiday lets and hotels in North Wales as they accommodate the hundreds of people who visit to shoot during the season.
The leaseholder told the Alliance: “We are extremely proud of our staff here at the shoot and proud of the fact that our business which we have put our heart and souls into contributes to the sustainability of so many rural businesses and their families, as well as making substantial contributions to charities through our fundraising at the shoot. This will have a knock-on effect from one community to another for years to come.”
In astonishing scenes during an Assembly debate on the 26th of September, the Minister for Environment Hannah Blythyn attempted to play down the value of the shooting enterprises affected by her decision, and dismissed their significance. She did not indicate if she would accept an invitation by Russell George, Assembly Member for Montgomeryshire, to visit his constituents affected by her proposal.
Russell George AM said: “I think it’s disappointing that both NRW and Welsh Government ministers have chosen to ignore the science and the evidence.
“The proposal will have significant negative consequences for the mid Wales economy, and demonstrates that the Welsh Labour Government has little understanding of Wales’ rural economy.”
Rachel Evans, Countryside Alliance Director for Wales said: “When you look at the harm that Welsh Labour’s decision would do to rural communities, you have to wonder if this reflects Labour’s wider approach to the countryside. Taking away people’s livelihoods with a decision that is not based on evidence is truly shocking.
“We have warned Welsh Government in various meetings that a decision to end pheasant shooting leases on NRW-managed land would negatively impact on the rural economy, and now the Alliance can reveal the extent of the damage. If this decision is implemented, the effects will be felt for years.”