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Labour's Cheshire West council criticised for 'total waste of time' report on trail hunting

A Labour controlled authority has been criticised for 'wasting time' compiling a report on trail hunting, when local children 'can't get to school properly' because of their policy.

Conservative Councillor and Shadow cabinet member for the Environment, Cllr. Simon Eardley, took to Twitter to raise his concerns ahead of a council cabinet meeting today where leaders agreed to 'pause' trail hunting on council owned land.

He said: "Tomorrow the Cheshire West & Chester Council Cabinet will consider an interim report on trail hunting on council land. A total waste of time. Meanwhile kids from my ward can't get to school sensibly or back home at a reasonable time owing to Council policy. Madness!"

Trail-hunting involves laying of a scent across the country which a pack of hounds then searches for and follows using their noses. The season starts in the autumn and continues throughout the winter, with most packs finishing during March.

The decision taken by the council's ruling cabinet follows on from an interim report of a 'working group' of cross-party councillors. The group has been tasked with examining the impact of trail hunting within the borough.

While the interim report had regurgitated aspects of the Countryside Alliance's own evidence submissions, it relied heavily on spurious claims from animal rights groups.

The report urged the cabinet to introduce a 'pause' on trail hunting while a public call for evidence is launched later this month.

Speaking in the cabinet meeting today to discuss the findings of the report, Cllr. Karen Shore, the cabinet member responsible for the Environment, admitted that the proposal to 'pause' trail hunting was not unanimously agreed to by all councillors in the working group.

Ahead of the vote, Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner wrote to Cllr. Shore to advise her that: "the act of trail hunting is a legal activity and we would find it difficult for Cheshire West & Chester to justify preventing a legal activity from taking place."

The letter added: "For obvious reasons and on a point of principle, it would seem we will have little resort now but to explore legal avenues, especially into the rights of your tenants even though it does not seem that any trail hunts are currently operating in Cheshire West & Chester.

"It is extremely strange that at a time when our country is coming out of an international pandemic, Cheshire West & Chester is using up time and resources to pursue a policy which we believe is unfounded and totally unjustified. Particularly so, when initial inquiries suggest that there is actually no Cheshire West land on which trail hunts are operating.

"Sadly, the report which has been delivered to the cabinet relies on a catalogue of animal rights fiction and is fundamentally flawed. It certainly does not justify the complete waste of council time and resources involved in 'banning' an activity that does not even take place on your land. Even more staggering is that you are apparently also going to be creating another report in two months' time."

Following the vote, Mr Bonner said: "It is unsurprising that the report recommendations at this stage did not receive the full support of the working group. We strongly urge the Cheshire West and Chester council leadership to focus on matters which impact those who actually live and work within the local area, rather than playing a divisive, unnecessary and resource consuming game of politics with the countryside. Local residents deserve better than political grandstanding."

The group's final report is set to be delivered to the cabinet in November. The Countryside Alliance will be continuing to follow developments closely and will submit evidence to any public enquiry but remains concerned about the impartiality of the report.

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