by Countryside Alliance

An attempt to ‘ban trail hunting’ on land owned by Bolsover District Council has ground to a halt, after it was confirmed at a full meeting of the council that they had no land in which hunts could use, even if they had wanted to.

In a motion proposed by Labour’s Cllr. Nick Clarke, there had been an intention to deny local hunts access to any land owned by Bolsover, despite it being a legal activity.

Trail hunting involves the laying of a scent across the country which a pack of hounds then searches for and follows using their noses. It is an activity that has been adopted since the Hunting Act 2004 banned traditional hunting with hounds, as hunts retain their infrastructure while complying with the legislation.

After several council members spoke in a meeting of the full council today, either in support or against the motion, the Leader of the Council, Cllr Steve Fritchley, explained that there were some aspects of the proposed motion that they couldn’t enforce legally, such as banning activities on public roads which is down to another authority.

He also stated that the council only owns 5 ½ acres of licensed land. A council official later confirmed that there currently isn’t any land which is accessed by any hunts.

Cllr Fritchley proposed an amendment to the original motion, known as a procedural motion, which would adjourn the original motion to widen the issue to a county-wide and national debate. He proposed instead to write on the council’s behalf to district and county councillors to share the sentiments expressed in the motion by Bolsover councillors. The Alliance believes this is unlikely to have any impact as it falls to individual authorities to make decisions about legal activity taking place on their land.  

In response to today’s proceedings, the Alliance claimed it ‘one of the most pointless motions in the council’s history’.

A Countryside Alliance spokesperson said: “If it was not such a waste of the council’s time, the attempt to ‘ban’ trail hunting on Bolsover council land would be an amusing farce. Despite a lot of commotion, Bolsover Council has acknowledged that it owns just 5 ½ acres of land - mainly consisting of car parks and allotments - which no hunt has ever been anywhere near. An attempt to curtail trail hunting, a legal activity, on council land must therefore rank as one of the most pointless motions in the council’s history.

The spokesman added: “Bolsover Councillors should stick to pursuing matters which are relevant to their residents, rather than grandstand at this incredibly difficult time for the country. Cllr. Clarke, who led this motion, sadly used an extensive range of insults to describe rural people, which is beneath the office he represents and the local council. All this sorry affair has done is reinforce the view that Labour has a seriously long road ahead, if it is to reconnect with rural people.”

Last week, Labour’s Cllr. Nick Clarke had been accused of ‘class war rage’ by the Countryside Alliance, after submitting his motion. In an extraordinary Facebook outburst, Cllr. Nick Clarke responded to the accusation by saying: “The Alliance have accused me of ‘class war rage’. I plead guilty to the charge I despise those who persecute and terrorise animals in pursuit of their unadulterated bloodlust.”

The post went on to say: “For a sporting contest to be considered equal the participants should be equally matched. This is not the case in foxhunting, the prey is pursued by a pack of hounds followed by psychopaths in fancy dress on horseback followed by knuckle draggers.”

It concluded: “I am proud to be accused of ‘class war rage’ and will wear the badge with pride.”

At the time, the Alliance responded: “It is incredibly disappointing that Cllr. Clarke has deemed it appropriate to use such malicious language when talking about rural people. Lashing out at people in rural communities by calling them ‘psychopaths’ and ‘knuckle draggers’ is completely unacceptable, and we would expect far better judgement from a Bolsover Council portfolio holder.”

A similar motion to disrupt trail hunting was put to councillors in Cherwell Oxfordshire last month, but it was heavily defeated. In Cheshire West, a similar motion has stalled and local councillors there are establishing a working group to formally discuss future trail hunting policy. 

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