Boundary Mill boss in ‘Wuthering Heights’ moor burning battle

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A PENDLE giant business boss is in a burning battle over the Pennine moorlands.

And this week Mr Richard Bannister, head of Boundary Mill Stores, is attending a hearing on an issue which affects his grouse shooting area - Walshaw and Lancashire Moor - covering a high and huge moorland area on the boundary between Pendle and Yorkshire.

The Government advisory body Natural England is trying to stop Walshaw Moor Estate having its heather burned off on a regular basis. It argues it will prevent damage to the 16,000 acre estate.

But landowners are claiming the landmark action will mean grouse shooting is under threat.

Mr Bannister (50), who established Colne-based Boundary Mill Stores which has huge premises at locations across the country including the one at Vivary Way, Colne, says the legal action against his land is a test case.

And he believes that, if Natural England wins the battle, it will force all the country’s other grouse sites to stop carrying out controlled burning on their “blanket bog”. And he feels that would be a disastrous consequence for nearly all the 148 grouse moors.

Like other landowners, he suggests that losing controlled burning would have a big impact on moorland birds like grouse and golden plovers because they would miss out on eating nutritious new heather shoots which result from the burn sessions. So upland wildlife would decline and grouse shooting hit. Across the country there are 850,000 acres of grouse shooting sites.

Mr Bannister, who has been at the hearing this week, was quoted in the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend. He said: “This is Natural England’s trigger to ban all burning of blanket bogs in England. It would have huge ramifications for grouse moors and rural life. Why would anyone want to destroy such an important part of our heritage?”

The five-week public inquiry at Leeds is expected to end today. It is Walshaw Moor’s appeal against Natural England’s bid to limit burning. The plan is to tighten the fires to every 25 years, and at the moment moors are burned between 15 and 18 years.

The Sunday Telegraph suggested Mr Bannister was thought to have spent about £1m. fighting the case. He bought Walshaw Moor in 2002 and the adjoining Lancashire Moor in 2005. The site features “Top Withins”, a farmhouse which inspired “Wuthering Heights”!