The CLA is urging moorland managers and owners not to undertake controlled burning of heather during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to alleviate the potential strain on public services and to protect residents with existing respiratory health conditions.

Heather burning on moors is strictly regulated by Natural England and local authorities, and is recognised as an essential tool to manage moorland and has many benefits including enhancing biodiversity and conservation.

CLA director for the North, Dorothy Fairburn, said: “Despite thorough risk assessments being undertaken prior to a burn, there is always a small chance of a wildfire as happened recently at Deer Hill Reservoir in Marsden, West Yorkshire.

“During this pandemic, I would encourage moor managers only to burn if absolutely necessary and then, to do so with extreme caution, being mindful of weather and atmospheric conditions to avoid it having an impact on residents in surrounding areas who may already have reduced respiratory ability, in addition to putting undue stress on emergency services.

“Instead of burning, managers of our moors could consider cutting as part of their management plans. We are also urging the public using the moors to be extra vigilant not to start a fire accidentally, in line with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services’ ‘Be Moor Aware’ campaign.”

The plea from the CLA coincides with calls from the Moorland Association, which represents many upland land manager, for members of the current wildfire risks and associated implications under Covid-19 restrictions and support a suspension of heather burning and to use cutting instead.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service have also sent out warnings about the subject, as has the Peak District National Park Authority.