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Motion to ban trail hunting on North Yorkshire Council owned land derailed

A campaign pressing for a ban on trail hunting on land owned by North Yorkshire council has been rejected, after councillors condemned being told what to do by ‘celebrities’ like Chris Packham and Brian May.

Members of North Yorkshire Council’s ruling Conservative group and two Independent councillors voted to recommend the notice of motion - which moved to prevent hunt using council-owned land - not be supported when it goes before Full Council in November.

Prior to the vote, the Countryside Alliance contacted necessary councillors, outlining the relevant facts, and urging them to vote against it.

After the vote by the authority’s corporate and partnerships scrutiny committee, held on 11th September 2023, Polly Portwin, director of the Countryside Alliance’s Action for Hunting campaign said it was “a victory for common sense”.

She said: “It became increasingly clear throughout the scrutiny debate that those supporting the motion to ban trail hunting on council land had very little understanding of the Hunting Act, trail hunting and the significant and irreplaceable contribution lawful hunting makes to the social and economic wellbeing of the North Yorkshire countryside.”

“It would be morally wrong for any local authority to ban a lawful activity and we hope this ideological attack on the rural way of life is voted down at the next meeting of the full council,” she added.

Labour councillor Rich Maw, who had proposed the motion and was photographed standing alongside masked hunt saboteurs outside the council building at a meeting back in July, said the result had been politically motivated.

Damian Readman, a local farrier and joint-master of the Derwent Hunt, told members how the hunt accesses council-owned land “throughout the season” and that tenant farmers should be able to make their own decisions regarding the land for which they are responsible.

He said: “Trail hunting and hound exercising, which are both legal activities, are no different to any other lawful countryside pursuits like dog walking or mountain biking. False information and heavily-edited footage is being used in an attempt to persuade both private, public and institutional landowners that hunts should be banned from accessing their land. North Yorkshire Council is just one of a number of local authorities which has had similar motions proposed by Labour candidates.”

Conservative councillors questioned the campaigners’ ‘evidence’ used to prop up the motion and described the notice of motion as “utterly ridiculous”. They said there was “a danger of prohibiting lawful behaviour”, before claiming there was a “hint of the class war about it”.

Cllr Tim Grogan, highlighted that the council should be discussing matters that are relevant to those who live in North Yorkshire, referencing how he asked residents for their views on trail hunting but they knew nothing about it.

He spoke in his capacity as a former Detective Sergeant police officer with West Yorkshire Police when he stated: “Regulation for the sake of regulation is poor regulation and I cannot support this motion.”

Cllr Donohue-Moncrieff, a North Yorkshire Independent, who joined the meeting remotely said: “We are a council not a campaign group.”

“We are being told that we need to do what Chris Packham and Brian May does. Well, I hate to break it to you Cllr Maw, the average person in Hunmanby & Sherburn [division] doesn’t spend their life being told what to do by celebrities.”

After an hour of fierce debate in County Hall’s council chamber, its chairman Councillor Andrew Williams said the proposal would be “largely ineffective and unenforceable” and added: “There is a certain degree of irony that a Labour councillor is coming forward with a legislative motion, criticising legislation introduced by a Labour government.”

He said those behind the proposal were trying to get the council involved in gestures and gimmicks that had no actual meaning.

Similar attempts to ban trail hunting on council owned land elsewhere have failed in North Northamptonshire, Cornwall and Essex.

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