The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has demanded a European investigation of the Government's wildlife watchdog amid a bitter row over the burning of a protected bird habitat.
The RSPB believes Natural England's abrupt decision in March to stop its prosecution of the Walshaw Moor Estate in West Yorkshire was in breach of its legal duty to protect the environment.
The charity claims Natural England contravened EU rules in its dealings with the estate, near Hebden Bridge, which burnt peat bog to help boost the numbers of grouse for shooting on the moors, and has submitted a formal complaint to Brussels.
The blanket bog in question is a rare and threatened habitat that is home to endangered wading birds such as dunlin and golden plover. Burning the bog encourages new heather shoots – a food source for grouse.
Natural England said its agreement with Walshaw Moor Estate meant that burning off would be subject to "specific controls" and that it was aware of the EU complaint.
Walshaw Moor Estate declined to comment.