There has been a large amount of media coverage and interest in the decision to revoke the three general licences (GL 04/05/06). These cover 16 species of birds, including several members of the crow family, Canada geese, some gulls, feral and wood pigeons.
Natural England announced on Tuesday (23 April) that the general licences would be revoked at 11.59pm on Thursday 25 April, as a result of a legal challenge. The decision to revoke the general licences is not a decision we took lightly and we recognise the disruption it has caused. We explored all options available and were left with no choice but to revoke licences. This was disappointing but we fully accept the need to comply with the law.
Natural England has been working urgently to identify alternative solutions for all those affected, and to convey as clearly as possible the action individuals can take to mitigate disruption. We are committed to working closely with farmers, pest controllers, gamekeepers and other professionals working in the countryside to ensure everyone who needs to control these birds can.
General licences will be restored as quickly as possible, starting with those species that are most likely to require urgent control. This will mean landowners can continue to take necessary action as they do now, whilst also taking into account the needs of wildlife.
On Friday (26 April) we published the first of these new general licences for controlling carrion crows, a priority species for farmers looking to protect against damage to livestock.
Those who need to control wildbirds in the circumstances described in this licence, for example where crows cause harm to new lambs, can do so without further steps: there is no need to apply for an individual licence. This should give peace of mind to landowners who need to shoot to control certain birds that they can do so within the law.
Other licences will follow in the coming days, with updates to follow.
In the interim, before these general licences are available, where there is no reasonable non-lethal alternative, you can rely on a simple and quick online application system to obtain individual licences to control wild birds. These are accessible now. I regret that at some times of the day yesterday people were unable to submit applications. Further changes to make it easier from all devices are underway.
I recognise, as does my team at Natural England, that these interim measures will cause disruption for licence users. We are working hard to ensure it is kept to a minimum. We also recognise that there may be instances of genuine emergency where immediate action may be taken.
This is not a ban on control, it is a change to the licences that allow control to take place.
Our priority at the moment is getting the new licensing regime up and running, so users are acting within the law. We will consult with stakeholders in advance of the wider review of general licensing that will take place later this year.
Anyone requiring further assistance should visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/wildlife-licences