A war of words has broken out between anti-hunt campaigners and a senior councillor over grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor.

The row follows the award of a ten-year Council contract in June to the Bingley Moor Partnership after an absence of shooting at the beauty spot of more than a decade.

Since the decision and the signing of the lease West Yorkshire Hunt Saboteurs have been vocal in opposition of the move. A petition has also been lodged with the Council from West Yorkshire Animals in Need, an Ilkley-based animal welfare group.

As well as the right to shoot grouse in season, the contract means the partnership will work with the Council to improve breeding grounds and encourage the spread of heather on the fire-damaged moor. This was the Council’s key objective in awarding the contract.

Just over a month ago the hunt saboteurs took their protest to the centre of Bradford outside key Council offices, including Jacob’s Well and City Hall.

Now spokesman Luke Steele has spoken out against Councillor Anne Hawkesworth, the Council’s executive member for environment and culture.

He claims Coun Hawkesworth says their campaign is “misleading and misguided”.

But, he added: “We work closely with groups who have environmental scientists who specialise and consult on the issue, as well as having undercover investigations into the shooting industry to back all our claims – whether they be based on damage to the area or animal cruelty.

“Before the shooting licence was issued to the Bingley Moor Partnership, Anne Hawkesworth claimed there were too many grouse on Ilkley Moor and they needed culling, but now claims that there are too little and the moor needs managing.”

Coun Hawkesworth reiterated her earlier comments on the issue, saying that the partnership won the tender because of the management of the moors it was able to offer and the lease is a legally-binding agreement.

She said: “The land management that goes with grouse-shooting, such as heather burning and bracken control, drainage management and sheep farming, is one of the practices which ensures the moorland is maintained to the best possible standard.”

A Green party motion to tomorrow’s meeting of the full council calls for an immediate review of the resumption of grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor.

A petition to the Council has been passed on to the executive which is due to consider the matter at its meeting in December at the earliest.