A common-sense approach to shooting from United Utilities

united utilities

Following confirmation from United Utilities (UU) that it has appointed an independent consultant to review shooting leases on its land, Gareth Dockerty reflects on the situation so far and his hopes for a common-sense approach to evaluating the evidence. 

Last summer, United Utilities (the UK’s largest water utility company) made a shock decision not to renew shoot leases on their land. Since then, there have been several constructive conversations between BASC, some of our partner organisations, and United Utilities’ senior management team. 

BASC reported in August last year that Louise Beardmore, United Utilities’ chief executive, had decided to undertake an independent review of the shoot tenants who would have been impacted by the initial decision. Importantly, she confirmed that the “status quo” would remain for shoots while the review was being undertaken.

We are now starting to see the implementation of this independent review and the new year has brought some encouraging signs for the shoots involved. 

BASC believes that the review process should be thorough and objective. In our view it should also provide each shoot with an opportunity to demonstrate its wider benefits to communities, habitats and species, while helping to tackle the broader challenges of climate change. BASC has been very clear that sustainable shooting can be a key driver and contributor towards United Utilities’ core objectives.

Demonstrating shooting's credentials

So far, United Utilities has been true to its word, and the review has begun on the right footing. As always, the devil will be in the detail and we must not become complacent. The next few months will be a vital test of how sustainable shooting practices can stand up to an independent review process, and the significance of this as a case study for other landowners is always at the forefront of our thoughts.

BASC and our partner organisations are asking for the process to be played with a straight bat; it is time to be grownups and clearly demonstrate the credentials of sustainable shooting.

Gathering the data from the shoots will be a mammoth task and will no doubt take a considerable amount of time, so the guarantee of the status quo for shoots is very important. 

We must now collectively embrace this opportunity to engage, while ensuring the process is based on evidence and facts, not extremist propaganda.

Our initial requests for a more considered and accountable process have begun to be implemented, so now the hard work begins to ensure that that shooting is treated fairly. We must not be judged in isolation, but in line with other stakeholders of United Utilities to ensure we are all held to account in the same way.

If the review demonstrates that shooting is sustainable and has no negative impact on water catchment, then United Utilities have no reason to cancel shoot leases on its land. The ball really is in our court.