An MP in parliament has championed research into heather burning, before apparently hitting out at shooting sports.

Rachael Maskell, the Labour/Co-operative MP for the York Central constituency, drew attention to ongoing research by the University of York into moorland management on April 26. Calling for the research to be given extended government funding, she said that it could help to prevent future floods. Comment on the researches findings to date, she said:

“If we look at burning versus mowing the heather, it brings a 10 per cent to 20 per cent reduction in the amount of water coming downstream, which is significant. In a place such as my city of York, we are talking about 40 cm of water, which would have greatly reduced the damage caused on Boxing day 2015. That is significant.”

Conservative MPs Kevin Hollinrake and Craig Whittaker probed Maskell’s position, with Hollinrake saying, “The honourable Lady is making a good point about burning versus mowing, but does she understand that some locations on the grouse moor cannot be mowed because the terrain is not suitable for mowing?” Whittaker challenged the 40cm figure: “If my memory serves me correctly about the research that the honourable Lady quotes, there is a line that clearly says the flow is unimpeded… The evidence quoted is not evidence because it uses unimpeded flow.”

Maskell defended herself on these points, pointing out that the research tool a holistic view of moorland management and citing a concersation with the researchers in rebuttal to Whittaker. She then went on to say:

“There is recognition that where heather is burned, we get greater germination of the seeds, which then bring heather. However, it has been shown that mowing means we get more shoots coming off the heather. For those who go out grouse shooting and support it, which I do not, mowing is better for that sport—if we can call it a sport; I probably would not. Mowing is also less labour-intensive, so it is good for those managing the moorlands.”

These anti-shooting asides passed unchallenged, with Hollinrake’s following speech moving the debate on to a detailed discussion of flood defences.


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