Another gas gun on Broomhead Estate grouse moor, Peak District National Park

Regular blog readers will know we’ve been banging on about the use of propane-powered gas guns (bird scarers) on grouse moors for a couple of years.

For those who don’t know, propane gas guns are routinely used for scaring birds (e.g. pigeons, geese) from agricultural crops – they are set up to deliver an intermittent booming noise and the audible bangs can apparently reach volumes in excess of 150 decibels. According to the Purdue University website, 150 decibels is the equivalent noise produced by a jet taking off from 25 metres away and can result in eardrum rupture. That’s quite loud!

We, and others, have blogged about them being deployed on various grouse moors in Scotland and England, and our suspicion that they are being used to deter certain raptor species from settling for a breeding attempt, especially hen harriers.

Last year (May 2016) we blogged about a gas gun that had been photographed on the Barnside Moor, which is part of the Broomhead Estate in the Peak District National Park. This estate is owned by Ben Rimington Wilson, a spokesman (see here) for the grouse-shooting industry’s lobby group the Moorland Association.

The gas gun was positioned right on the edge of the area designated as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and an SPA (Special Protection Area), both designated in part for breeding bird populations, particularly short-eared owls, merlin and golden plover. As such, we believed the gas gun would require consent from Natural England as it would fall under the list of ‘operations likely to damage the special interest of the site’. However, at that time Natural England still hadn’t published its long-awaited guidance on gas gun use so that particular enquiry didn’t go very far.

Fast forward a year, and one of our blog readers has sent us some photographs (thank you) of another gas gun on this moor (photos taken this week) and this time the gas gun is placed in a different position from last year.

This year the gas gun is positioned well within the boundary of the SPA, the SAC (Special Area of Conservation) and the SSSI, as the following maps show:

What’s also different this year is we now have the ‘official guidance’ published by Natural England about gas gun use and whether the landowner has to apply for consent. According to the (not very impressive) flow chart that NE produced, it would appear that consent would be required for this particular gas gun as it sits well within the boundary of the SSSI:

At this stage we’re not suggesting that Mr Rimington-Wilson has acted unlawfully – he may well have applied for, and received, consent from Natural England. What we’re interested in finding out is DID he apply, and DID Natural England provide consent, and if so, on what grounds? How would Natural England ensure that the deployment of a gas gun would not disturb the breeding birds for which the site was designated for special protection?

Emails to:

We’re also interested in finding out how many raptor species bred successfully on this moor this year. The Broomhead Estate is part of the Peak District Birds of Prey Initiative, a project that failed to deliver its five-year targets but was set to continue in 2015 with “renewed commitment” and “new rigour and energy” from project partners, according to the Peak District National Park Authority (see here). Now, as it’s still only July, it’s unlikely that the raptor breeding data for 2017 have been analysed and submitted yet, but nevertheless, it’s worth lodging an interest in these data and asking the PDNPA to forward those results as soon as they become available, which should be later this year.

Emails to Sarah Fowler, Chief Exec of the PDNPA: 

And while we’re on the subject of the Peak District National Park, the PDNPA is currently consulting on its Management Plan and wants to know your views. See Mark Avery’s blog today (here) for some helpful hints on which issues you might want to raise. The consultation ends at the end of this month.

UPDATE 24 July 2017: Natural England responds (see here)

7 thoughts on “Another gas gun on Broomhead Estate grouse moor, Peak District National Park”

  1. As a note. This gas gun has been in the possition photograghed since it was moved there after it was found the year earlier at the first location. I myself have not heard it firing in this new location since being moved, thankfully.

  2. How you decide if something can happen in an SPA or SPA must follow a legally set out process.
    This is set out in the Habitats regulations.

    Things are slightly different in England, but SNH published this “numpties guide” leaflet which wont be far of the mark…

    Click to access Natura%20sites%20and%20the%20Habitats%20Regulations%20Jan%202011.pdf

    If you follow the decision pathway..
    !. It can not necessary for the conservation management of the site….. NO WAY
    2. It will have a significant impact on the protected species…………………………………YES
    3. Therefore it can only go ahead if NE carry out an “appropriate assessment”.

    Requesting (FOI) the appropriate assessment will reveal why EN have permitted this to be installed.

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