National Trust revokes shooting licence for first time in High Peak Moors

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Media captionThe footage was released after police investigations ended

The National Trust has terminated a grouse shooting lease on its land for the first time following a "suspicious" incident involving an armed man.

The charity took the decision after footage emerged of the man apparently trying to attract a protected hen harrier with a decoy bird.

The trust said it no longer had confidence tenant Mark Osborne was committed to its "vision" for the land.

The Moorland Association expressed its "sadness" over the trust's decision.

The National Trust added the termination does not amount to a complete ban on grouse shooting on its land, and confirmed Mr Osborne was not the man seen in the footage.

Image copyright Raptor Persecution Scotland
Image caption Conservationists claim the footage shows an armed man with a decoy hen harrier

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The footage was captured by birdwatchers, who happened to be in the area, with a digiscope about a kilometre away.

In February, two keepers were interviewed by the police in connection with an alleged incident involving a game keeper and a hen harrier decoy, but no charges were pressed.

The trust told the BBC that it terminated the shooting leases at Hope Woodlands and Park Hall, in the High Peak area of the Peak District, as a result of this incident.

The termination will come into effect from April 2018 - four years early.

The BBC has made several attempts to contact Mr Osborne, but has so far not received a response.

Andy Beer, of the National Trust, said: "We have given the tenant 22 months' notice and will start the process of looking for a replacement in 2017."

Image copyright Andy Hay/RSPB Images
Image caption The hen harrier is one of the most persecuted birds of prey in the UK, according to the RSPB

Robert Benson, chairman of the Moorland Association - who support grouse shooting - said they were "very sad" the lease was terminated early.

"We are, however, delighted that the National Trust has recognised the importance of grouse shooting and of putting in place a new shooting tenant in order to deliver this," he said.

According to the RSPB, hen harriers are the most "intensively persecuted" birds of prey in the UK and its predation of grouse is a source of conflict on moors used for shooting.

In 2015, five male hen harriers disappeared from sites across England leading to the collapse of nests.

It is still not clear what happened to the birds.

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