Following our UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, the Lake District National Park continues to support and uphold the rich traditions and customs of the area.
In respect of trail hunting, we issue licences for activities taking place on common land owned by the Lake District National Park Authority.
There are approximately twelve Fell Packs operating with the permission of landowners in various parts of Cumbria. Prior to 2004, these Fell Packs were generally engaged in fox hunting, but since the Hunting Act 2004, which bans the hunting of foxes, their activity is restricted to the exercising of hounds, trail-following or drag hunting.
The Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) does not have any overall power or responsibility to manage this activity on land owned by others in the National Park.
However, several Fell Packs have traditionally used areas of Common Land that is now owned by the LDNPA (amounting to about 3 per cent of land in the National Park) and this use has continued under licence from us. We issue licences for a wide variety of activities on our land and those issued to the Fell Packs are designed to enable them to maintain their traditional activity within the law, whilst minimising inconvenience to other users of the land.
The need to act within the law is stressed in the licence which requires organisers to submit records of all activity on our land. Whilst contraventions of the law are a police issue, and it is they who must handle allegations of illegality, we are clear that we reserve the right to withdraw licences, or take other appropriate action, if there is robust evidence of a breach of the law or other terms of our licence.
We keep this area of activity under review and maintain a constructive relationship with the police, other landowners, the Fell Packs and other legitimate stakeholders. We meet regularly with representatives of the Fell Packs operating on our land and if any incidents are reported to us, we investigate directly with the Fell Pack concerned. We are founder members of a Liaison Forum which meets with the aim of sharing experience and harmonising the requirements placed on the various Fell Packs.
In the past we have granted licences to five fell pack associations who use five commons owned by us, which amounts to around three percent of land in the national park. We operate an open dialogue with all parties and interest groups and take steps to ensure our licence conditions reflect the feedback and views we receive.
There is a licence obligation to fill in a daily record sheet for each outing, which has details of some of the mechanics of the activity and in particular records any incidents. These are to be submitted at the end of the year as a batch, but the licence also requires us to be notified within 24 hours of any incident.
We have new arrangements for LDNP staff to attend outings in order to satisfy ourselves that each fell pack can and is operating within the terms of the licence, this will include requiring evidence of the source of the scents used in the activity to ensure procurement is legal.
Whenever third parties contact us with allegations of illegal or unlicensed behaviour on LDNP land, we investigate with the fell pack in question.
Our licence currently strictly prohibits the use of terriers, terrier boxes or the intention to use terriers and the hunt must not even go prepared to do so. Any such action of this nature would be considered a breach of the licence.