A HUNT has had its hunting licence on Exmoor suspended by the National Trust after the group was found to have breached its licence several times.

The National Trust said it has carefully considered evidence regarding the Minehead Harriers seen by its own members of staff on the Holnicote Estate, including riding quad bikes on National Trust land, blocking of public roads and the programme of meetings not being given out ‘in a timely manner’.

A statement released by the National Trust this week states: “We have also been made aware of the hunt allegedly carrying out activities outside their licence, which only allows for trail hunting.”

The National Trust recently met with members of the Minehead Harriers to discuss a new code of conduct.
A spokesman for the National Trust said a number of issues had been highlighted during the meeting.

He said: “We recently held a meeting with the hunt to discuss the breaches and how we can rebuild trust between the hunt and ourselves.
“We have agreed to lift the suspension of the licence provided that a mutually agreed code of conduct has been developed and communicated to the hunt’s members and followers.” 

The organisation has agreed that it will lift the suspension on March 1 if its conditions are met, but said no decision had been made about future renewals of the licence for next year.

The National Trust statement concludes: “We are very much aware of the importance of countryside traditions and we will continue to allow field sports to take place on our property where they are traditionally practised, providing they are within the law, comply with any licence conditions that we require and are compatible with the Trust’s purposes. 
“These include public access and the protection of rare animals and birds and fragile habitats.”

A spokesman for anti-hunt campaigners, the Somerset Saboteurs, the group which made a number of allegations against the Harriers said: “We believe the National Trust, locally, is to be congratulated on finally taking action, because these issues are often ignored by the police and landowners.

“We will be only too pleased to look out for any breaches that may occur should the Minehead Harriers regain their licence. No one wants to stop a fun day out as long as all animals are protected from cruelty.” 

Director of the hunting office Alastair Jackson said: “While the Hunting Act is in place, one of the several legal alternatives to provide activity for hunts is trail hunting. 
“This is for hounds to follow an artificial scent, which has been laid in such a way as to mimic a real fox hunt. 
“It would ideally not be the flat-out gallop typical of drag hunting, would take in different types of country and be a challenge for the hounds. It is one of the ways to keep the infrastructure of hunts intact until such time as repeal of the Hunting Act can be achieved.”

The Minehead Harriers said nobody was available to comment on the issue.