Scarborough Council calls for policy to deter ‘illegal’ hunting

Scarborough Council has asked the forthcoming North Yorkshire Council for a county-wide policy on trail hunting, as one member suggested it was being used as a “smokescreen” for illegal hunting.

By Anttoni James Numminen
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 9:10 am
Updated Thursday, 9th June 2022, 9:13 am

The council’s Lives and Homes Overview and Scrutiny Committee endorsed the proposal to ask North Yorkshire Council for a policy, following a discussion which addressed the practice of trail hunting within Scarborough Council’s limits.

Though the hunting of foxes with dogs was banned in the Hunting Act 2004, it does allow for trail hunting, which is intended to replicate traditional fox hunting. This usually happens by following a scent along a predetermined route with hounds or beagles.

The item appeared on the agenda of the committee following a previous statement to a full council meeting last year by Cllr Rich Maw, who, following a National Trust ban on trail hunting, said: “Whilst I accept there are sure to be hunts that abide by the law, this sport is now judged to be both a ‘sham and a fiction’ and is tarnished beyond doubt.”

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Trail hunting was allowed in the Hunting Act of 2004. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

He added that, to avoid the “risk of any illegal activity” on council land, “can we ask of legitimate hunts who may wish to use SBC land from time to time to provide events diaries either publicly, else directly to North Yorkshire Police” as well as “adequate insurance and evidence receipts for the purchase of fox urine (a necessary component of trail hunting)?”.

In a report to the Lives and Homes Overview and Scrutiny Committee, director Lisa Dixon said: “In practical terms, some of the above may be outside the remit of this authority, however, members could look at the issue of trail hunting following a similar approach to Cheshire West and Chester Council.”

Cheshire West and Chester Council had set up cross-party groups to review evidence, but Ms Dixon’s report suggested that owing to time and resource constraints “this could be an issue on which members seek to influence the agenda of the new unitary authority for North Yorkshire”.

The committee also heard from Polly Portwin, the Countryside Alliance’s Director of the Campaign for Hunting, who said the Alliance only condoned lawful hunting activities and expected all hunts to act within the confines of the Hunting Act.

She added that she was speaking on behalf of local residents within the area who supported trail hunting and lawful hunting activities, as well as representing other members of the Countryside Alliance who also supported trail hunting in the Scarborough Council area.

She highlighted that trail hunting was a lawful activity.

Committee members were also read correspondence from Damian Readman, who expressed “disappointment” that the meeting had gone ahead “without the consultation of any local hunts that may be affected”.

He added: “We believe that there should always be a presumption in favour of lawful activity on publicly-owned land and that the council should be seeking to maximise, not restrict, public enjoyment of land held as a public asset for everyone.”

The committee decided to ask the new North Yorkshire Council - through an ongoing workstream on policy - to consider a county-wide policy on trail hunting.

From April 2023, North Yorkshire Council will replace the current county council and seven district and borough councils, including Scarborough Council.