England’s largest corporate landowner, United Utilities, has announced its decision to cease grouse shooting on its extensive moorlands across the north west.

The water company’s decision was announced this week following a review of its position initiated in March. As shooting leases reach their conclusion at various stages between now and 2027, they will not be renewed. Instead of being maintained for grouse shooting, the company’s water catchment moors will be restored for nature, climate and people.

Louise Beardmore, CEO of United Utilities, stated “We made a commitment that we would no longer renew any existing shooting leases on a long term basis and that has guided our approach over the last couple of years. I can now also confirm that we will not issue any new shooting leases as United Utilities as we go forward.”

Conservation organisations have hailed this move by the company as a “breakthrough moment” that paves the way for the restoration of large parts of the Forest of Bowland, Peak District and West Pennines, facilitating the recovery of nature.

Luke Steele, Executive Director of Wild Moors, responded to the announcement: “The world is fast moving in a direction where restoring land for nature, carbon capture and people is at the forefront of tackling climate change and biodiversity loss.”

“As England’s largest corporate landowner, United Utilities has risen to the challenge of creating a wilder and more diverse future for the uplands, and we commend the company for its decision to end grouse shooting on its moors. We now urge other landowners to follow on.”