Letter: Moorland scars

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your environment correspondent's report about Duncan Davidson's plans to build a network of tracks in the Cheviots ("Moorland scarred by tracks for shooting", 28 September) illustrates an important anomaly. Why is it that farm and forestry tracks do not need full planning permission, unlike those used in connection with grouse shooting?

Heather moorland is a semi-natural environment, though vitally important in terms of biodiversity. The Government's own conservation agencies accept that properly managed grouse shooting is one of the best ways of maintaining and paying for heather moorland. By contrast, over-intensive sheep grazing and inappropriate conifer plantations ruin moorland. Yet landowners have traditionally received subsidies to cover moors in sheep and conifers, whereas they are taxed on shooting. The final irony is that Mr Davidson is reportedly reducing the numbers of sheep in order to regenerate heather.

The officials of Northumberland National Park - who are not exactly popular with local people - should be lobbying the Government to put grouse moor management on a level playing field with sheep rearing and forestry, instead of wringing their hands and whingeing about "difficult decisions".

ALASDAIR MITCHELL

Stocksfield, Northumberland

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