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

13.05.19 UPDATE:

Defra consultation on General Licensing system for pest bird species such as crows and pigeons.

Following Natural England’s decision to revoke the old General Licences because of a legal challenge from Wild Justice, Defra launched a call for evidence, in particular seeking personal experiences from those that have been affected by the withdrawal of the three General Licences – GL04, 05 and 06.

The consultation applies to England only and closed on 13 May.

You can see the CLA's response to the consultation here

 

 

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07.05.19 UPDATE:

Defra has announced it is taking over the process of reissuing general licences from Natural England. A short consultation will now be undertaken during which time no new general licences will be issued. The consultation closes on 13 May 2019 and CLA will be providing a formal response on the issue.

However, members can still make use of those general licences which have been issued so far and in the meantime can continue to apply for individual licences.

Further information on this is outlined below.

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26.04.19 UPDATE: 

Natural England has now published (Friday 26 April) the first of the new general licences for controlling birds. The licence starts to replace the previous general licences for controlling carrion crows, a priority species for landowners looking to protect against damage to livestock. Further licences will be introduced at pace over the coming days and weeks.

Click here for further information on licences for controlling carrion crows

Click here for Natural England's announcement on the new general licence for carrion crows

Click here to read Natural England's position statement and general licence next steps

The CLA has included an in-depth analysis in exclusive member e-news.

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Natural England have announced that licences will be published according to this timeline:

Priority 1: To be issued from w/c 29 April or sooner

  • Prevent serious damage to livestock – Carrion crow
  • Conserving wild bird – magpie Conserving wild bird – Carrion crow
  • Prevent serious damage to crops – woodpigeon Prevent serious damage to crops – Rook
  • Prevent serious damage to crops – Canada goose
  • Preserving public health and public safety – Feral pigeon
  • Preserving public health and public safety – Canada goose
  • Preserving public health and public safety – Lesser Black Backed Gull
  • Preserving public health and public safety – Herring gull

Priority 2: To be issued from w/c 13 May or before

  • Conserve wild birds - Canada goose
  • Prevent the spread of disease - Feral pigeon
  • Prevent serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock – Carrion crow
  • Prevent serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock – Rook
  • Prevent serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock – Carrion crow
  • Prevent serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock – Rook
  • Prevent serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock – Magpie

Priority 3: Date to confirmed

  • Preserving public health and public safety - Monk parakeet
  • Conserve wild birds - Rook
  • Conserve wild birds - Jackdaw
  • Conserve wild birds - Jay
  • Conserve wild birds - Ring-necked parakeet
  • Conserve wild birds - Monk parakeet
  • Prevent serious damage to crops - Feral pigeon
  • Prevent serious damage to crops - Carrion crow
  • Prevent serious damage to crops - Jackdaw
  • Prevent serious damage to crops - Egyptian goose
  • Prevent serious damage to vegetables/fruit - Wood pigeon
  • Prevent serious damage to vegetables/fruit - Rook
  • Prevent the spread of disease - Rook
  • Prevent the spread of disease - Jackdaw
  • Prevent the serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock - Woodpigeon
  • Prevent the serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock - Feral pigeon

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You may experience issues with downloading the new General Licences forms from the Gov.uk website due to the volume of interest.

You can download them directly below and then complete by hand before returning to Natural England by email birds2019@naturalengland.org.uk

Download the forms:

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) 

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What has happened?

Natural England is revoking three general licences for controlling certain wild birds from Thursday 25 April 2019. This follows a legal challenge to the way the permits have been issued which could mean users who rely on them are not acting lawfully.

The licences cover 16 species including crows, magpies, rooks, jackdaws and jays, feral and wood pigeons, and some “invasive non-native species” such as Canada geese (see full list below).

Natural England is working on alternative measures to allow lawful control of these bird species to continue in defined situations – such as to prevent serious damage to livestock from carrion crows or health issues from feral pigeons – and it expects to start issuing new licences from Monday 29 April 2019.

Wild birds are protected by law but until now people have been permitted to control them under general licence through shooting or trapping provided best efforts have been made to tackle the problem by alternative methods before resorting to shooting or trapping.

This abrupt decision was taken by Natural England following their own legal advice and without consultation with rural stakeholders, including the CLA. We do not know why such short notice was given and were not consulted on either the decision or the timeframes. 

This serious lack of communication with key stakeholders is totally unacceptable and has been urgently fed back to Natural England, but it has badly shaken the confidence of rural stakeholders and customers alike.

 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR CLA MEMBERS?

From Thursday 25 April all members should take all possible steps to cease trapping or shooting of crows, jays, magpies, pigeons or any of the other birds on the list of bird species affected (see below).

Anyone exercising lethal control of birds after Thursday 25 April without taking certain steps (see below) will not be covered by a general licence and could be committing an offence.

 

WHAT ARE THE GENERAL LICENCES IN QUESTION?

General licences are issued by the Government to provide a legal method of carrying out a range of activities relating to wildlife management. They cover methods such as shooting, destroying nests and the use of certain traps such as Larsen traps which may otherwise be illegal. The licences in question relate to management of birds that may be considered pests, such as crows, jackdaws, magpies and pigeons.

More information on the Natural England licences being revoked can be seen here: GL04GL05 and GL06. For ease of reference in summary they are as follows:

 

  1. GL04: General licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage or disease.

Overview

This licence permits landowners, occupiers and other Authorised Persons to carry out a range of otherwise prohibited activities against the species of wild birds listed on the licence. This licence may only be relied upon where the activities are carried out for the purposes specified, and users must comply with licence terms and conditions. These conditions include the requirement that the user must be satisfied that legal (including non-lethal) methods of resolving the problem are ineffective or impracticable.

  1. GL05: General Licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to preserve public health or public safety.

Overview

This licence permits landowners, occupiers and other Authorised Persons to carry out a range of otherwise prohibited activities against the species of wild birds listed on the licence. This licence may only be relied upon where the activities are carried out for the purpose of preserving public health or public safety, and users must comply with licence terms and conditions. These Conditions include the requirement that the user must be satisfied that legal (including non-lethal) methods of resolving the problem are ineffective or impracticable.

  1. GL06: General Licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to conserve flora and fauna.

Overview

This licence permits landowners, occupiers and other Authorised Persons to carry out a range of otherwise prohibited activities against the species of wild birds listed on the licence. This licence may only be relied upon where the activities are carried out for the purposes specified, and users must comply with licence terms and conditions. These Conditions include the requirement that the user must be satisfied that legal (including non-lethal) methods of resolving the problem are ineffective or impracticable.

 

 

WHICH SPECIES ARE AFFECTED BY THIS DECISION?

From Thursday 25 April people can no longer kill or trap any of the wild birds listed below, or take, damage or destroy their nests or eggs:

  • Crow
  • Dove, collared
  • Gull, lesser black backed
  • Jackdaw
  • Jay
  • Magpie
  • Pigeon, Feral
  • Rook
  • Woodpigeon
  • Goose, Canada
  • Goose, Egyptian
  • Parakeet, Monk
  • Parakeet, Ring-necked
  • Sacred Ibis
  • Indian house-crow
  • Herring Gull

 

WHAT ABOUT OTHER SPECIES?

Rules governing the control of animals such as stoats and weasels remain unchanged. Game birds are not affected so Natural England’s decision doesn’t affect game shooting. These are covered by a different section within the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

A full list the species that may be killed outside the closed season are listed in Schedule 2.

 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU USE A GENERAL LICENCE?

It is expected that, over time, many situations currently covered by the three general licences will be covered by new licences.

Natural England is undertaking new licensing assessments to support lethal control of certain birds in defined situations, and will be prioritising areas of high demand such as to prevent serious damage to livestock from carrion crow and to preserve public health and safety from the impacts of feral pigeons. It intends to start issuing these licences from the week commencing 29 April when more details should be available.

If people need to take action in the meantime they will need to apply for an individual licence, using an interim process which should be available on www.gov.uk from 25 April.

In very limited circumstances, people may be allowed to undertake urgent action in accordance with the existing requirements of section 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Anyone exercising lethal control of birds after Thursday 25 April 2019 without taking the above steps will not be covered by a general licence and could be committing an offence.

If you are unsure what you should do on your land, visit the Natural England licensing webpage for more information and advice

 

WHAT IS THE CLA DOING?

  • All rural and shooting organisations whose members are affected convened a conference call on 24 April to agree key asks of Natural England.
  • A meeting has been convened for Tuesday 30 April when MPs will speak to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at Defra, Therese Coffey, about Natural England’s revocation of these licences.
  • The CLA is vigorously challenging the decision to revoke these licences and is urgently seeking a meeting with the new chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper.

CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said: “It is hugely disappointing that Natural England is being diverted into reviewing these licences for no practical benefit. This will place additional strain on their limited resources, further creating an ever growing sense of frustration at a time when farmers are proactively engaging with the environmental agenda.

“These licences have worked successfully for many years, enabling farms and rural businesses to produce a secure supply of food alongside protection for young livestock, farmland birds and other wildlife from a range of predatory wild birds. This decision means farmers and land managers are now plunged into uncertainty at a critical season for both wildlife and farming.

“The CLA will urgently work with Natural England to ensure there is an alternative solution without delay.”

 

Click here to read Natural England's full announcement

Click here to contact your regional office if you require further advice

 

This serious lack of communication with key stakeholders is totally unacceptable and has been urgently fed back to NE, but it has badly shaken the confidence of rural stakeholders and customers alike.

 

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