Grouse shooting could return to Ilkley Moor a decade after it was controversially scrapped for being offensive.

Bradford Council is drawing up plans which would allow shooting parties back on the famous moorland for the first time in 11 years.

It is inviting companies to submit tenders for a contract for a ten-year grouse shooting lease which will start next month.

Campaigners hit out at the "blatant cruelty" of using birds as "feathered targets" and said a host of other indigenous species which interfere with grouse shooting would be trapped, shot and poisoned, should shooting be brought back.

An Animal Aid spokesman said: "It would be a huge step backwards to allow shooting on Ilkley Moor again."

There was a row in 1997 when the Council, which has managed the moor since 1974, decided not to renew the shooting licence. Opponents of the decision argued it would be detrimental to the management of the moor and amounted to an attack on the hunting and shooting lobby.

Supporters claimed that good management of the moorland was not dependent on grouse shooting.

Two years later, the Council produced a ten-year management plan for Ilkley Moor that outlined objectives for nature conservation, recreation and the area's archaeological features.

Danny Jackson, the Council's countryside and rights of way service manager, said: "We are asking people to tender for grouse shooting rights on Ilkley Moor.

"It was stopped in 1997 when the Council decided not to renew the licence.

"However we have continued to manage the moor and monitor the wild bird population. We are also working closely with the owners of neighbouring moors, all of which are shot for grouse.

"In the past few years the Council has allowed grouse to be driven from Ilkley Moor as grouse stocks increased.

"Grouse shooting does assist moorland management because of the practices that go with it such as heather burning and bracken control."

However Animal Aid campaigner Fiona Pereira said: "Aside from the obvious and blatant cruelty of using birds as feathered targets, the management' of moorland for grouse shooting interests means the legal and illegal destruction - through trapping, shooting and poisoning - of a host of indigenous species that interfere with shooting."

The grouse population soared to such a high level in 2004, that Bradford Council employed professional beaters to drive birds on to privately-owned adjoining moors where grouse shoots were still taking place.

The move followed fears that the moor's grouse population could be wiped out by disease unless their numbers are reduced.

At the time, RSPB conservation officer Tim Melling said: "It is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard to say you are shooting to protect the species."