General licences for bird control – major changes to licensing requirements (land in England only)

UPDATED 14 June 2019

Defra has issued three new general licences which the CLA believes represent a significant improvement from those recently issued by Natural England. 

These draw from the style of the old General Licences GL04, 05 and 06 and they cover multiple species.

As ever it will be important for those that wish to rely on these new General Licences to look through them in detail and ensure that that the situation they wish to rely on it for is covered by the licence, that they have taken the necessary steps before taking action and that they comply with the conditions and restrictions.

The new licences can be found at the following links:

WML-GL34- To kill or take certain species of wild birds to conserve wild birds and to conserve flora and fauna

WML-GL35- To kill or take certain species of wild birds to preserve public health or public safety

WML-GL36- To kill or take certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage

Defra has released additional guidance on general licences which includes an extensive FAQ for licence users and a decision tree to help people understand which licence is suitable for their needs. You can see the guidance here.

Reasonable Endeavours and Record Keeping

It should be noted that those wishing to rely on these licences must ensure reasonable endeavours have been made, and must continue to be made, to achieve the purpose in question using lawful methods not covered by this licence.

Whilst not a legal obligation, importantly these licences recommend that those relying on them keep records of their actions.  To ensure you are in a strong position if you are ever called upon to defend your actions the CLA would recommend that you do follow this step and keep up to date records. The licences set out:

Although this is not a legal requirement, it is recommended that users keep a record of their use of actions permitted by this licence, the problem addressed by such action, and the other lawful methods which have been used to resolve the problem.

Which Species are Covered?

Each of the new General Licences covers different species, these are set out below:

WML-GL34- To kill or take certain species of wild birds to conserve wild birds and to conserve flora and fauna

  • Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)
  • Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
  • Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
  • Magpie (Pica pica)
  • Rook (Corvus frugilegus)
  • Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis)
  • Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus)
  • Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)
  • Ring-necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameria)
  • Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)
  • Indian House Crow (Corvus splendens)

WML-GL35- To kill or take certain species of wild birds to preserve public health or public safety

  • Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)
  • Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
  • Magpie (Pica pica)
  • Rook (Corvus frugilegus)
  • Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)
  • Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis)
  • Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)

WML-GL36- To kill or take certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage

  • Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)
  • Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
  • Magpie (Pica pica)
  • Rook (Corvus frugilegus)
  • Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)
  • Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)
  • Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis)
  • Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)
  • Ring-necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameria)
  • Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus)

What about Gulls?

Users can continue to apply to Natural England for an individual licence for control of herring gulls, and now for lesser black-backed gulls. Natural England is developing a new class licence for these species to be ready in good time for next year’s breeding season.

What are the rules on Protected Sites?

European and Ramsar Sites

One area where there is still work to be done in relation to these new General Licences is with certain protected sites (I.e. European sites or Ramsar sites) or within 300 metres of their boundary, this is contained in point h under General Information within the licence which is set out below:

If you need to carry out action that would otherwise be permitted by this licence on a European site or Ramsar site or within 300 metres of the boundary of such a site, then you will need to apply to Natural England for an individual licence, unless the action is permitted by a general licence issued by Natural England (for example, WML-GL26 relating to Carrion Crow, WML-GL28 relating to Canada Goose or WML-GL31 relating to Woodpigeon).

The licences issued by Natural England recently, GL26, GL28 and GL31 will remain in force as these do cover these areas for certain actions.  These General Licences can be found here:

Click here for further information on licences for controlling carrion crows

Click here for further information on licence for controlling woodpigeons

Click here for further information on licence for controlling Canada geese

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

The details on SSSI’s can be found in the General Information section at K to M.

In summary these licences do not provide consent for actions in Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’s) and this will need to be sought from Natural England.  Where the SSSI is a Special Protection Area or a Special Area of Conservation, Natural England will consider whether there is likely to be a significant effect on features of European importance (alone or in combination) and carry out a Habitats Regulations Assessment, as required. 

SSSI consent is given to the owner or occupier.  Even when consent has been granted to the owner or occupier, before anyone else can take action under this licence on the SSSI in question the owner or occupier must notify Natural England in writing of the proposal to permit someone to take such action and the owner or occupier must have received consent from Natural England before they can take action.

If you need to apply for an individual licence you will need to download the interim general licences forms below and then complete by hand before returning to Natural England by email birds2019@naturalengland.org.uk

You can download the forms here:

Application to preserve public health or public safety (19-01) 

Application to conserve flora and fauna (19-02) 

Application to prevent serious damage (19-03) 

Application to prevent the spread of disease (19-04) 

Users who already have an individual licence issued since 25 April 2019 can continue to operate under that should they wish.

Those that want to find further details on European sites, Ramsar sites and SSSI’s should review point n of the General Licences in particular, the link to the map is here: www.magic.gov.uk

Are these the final version?

No, Defra has set out that there will be a full consultation on General Licences by the end of the summer and the CLA will continue to push for a simple and pragmatic approach that people can understand and rely on.

Further Assistance

CLA members can contact their regional office in the first instance if they have any queries on these new General Licences.

Alternatively, users of the Defra General Licences can contact the response centre: on 0330 159 1986 or GLenquiries@defra.gov.uk. This helpline will be open from 9am on Friday 14 June.

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