TRAIL hunting will be examined by a new group set-up by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The group, which will be chaired by deputy leader Cllr Karen Shore, will look into the practice on land the authority owns and report-back in the summer.

Hunting monitors have said the move ‘is only a start’, whereas the Countryside Alliance said it is ‘an obvious, political attempt to curtail a legal activity’. 

Speaking in favour of establishing the working group, Cllr Shore told CWAC’s cabinet: “This is a paper which seeks to establish a cross-party working group. It is not a decision on the policy and it is not a policy proposal.

“Any decision on the policy will be with the cabinet. It also talks about, in the report, about risks and I want to add that this is also a policy about protecting flora and fauna.”

However, some councillors questioned the wisdom of creating the body during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Conservative Cllr Jill Houlbrook said: “At a time when our NHS, care sector, and communities are under immense pressure and when we need to keep each other safe, it is feasible or morally right… to look at work that is not urgent and is based on uncertain data.

“At a time when we should focus all our efforts on our NHS, why is it going ahead?

“I ask therefore that cabinet puts this work on hold and so officers can do it justice.”

Along with Cllr Shore, Labour will have two more representatives on the board, with one each from the Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Independent Groups.

Reacting to the news, Lesley Martin, Cheshire Monitors’ Overall Co-Ordinator, said: “[This move] is more about setting a precedent for other councils and other organisations. We have been trying to expose these hunts since the ban and it is a start.

“Even if they don’t hunt on a lot of council land in Cheshire West, they do in Cheshire East. Either way, they are certainly affecting the council’s constituents because the amount of issues hunting brings to a community is outrageous. It is part of a bigger picture.

“This is only a start. Next, we need to ask hunts to give an event plan with the trail that they are laying on on the day, for everybody to see. That would be the first thing on my list.”

In response to the decision, a spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance told the LDRS: “As the only public contribution to voluntarily attend today’s meeting today, we are pleased councillors have listened to our numerous concerns about what is an obvious, political attempt to curtail a legal activity. 

“Based on contributions from some present today, most notably Cllrs Parker and Holbrook, it is becoming increasingly clear that members of the council recognise that the priorities of some other councillors and those behind wanting to push through restrictions to this lawful activity, are deeply questionable and unjustifiable. 

“Going forward, we reiterate our call to ensure this working group liaises with local trail hunts, which are made up of local Cheshire residents from all walks of life, as well as the relevant hunting authorities. It is only by actively doing this, that the working group can claim to have any credibility as being balanced.”