I wanted to give an update on the latest situation for those who need to take action to control wild birds.
As you may have already seen, Defra yesterday (13 June) announced three new general licences. We welcome this announcement, which follows a great deal of work between Defra and Natural England to tackle an exceptionally complex situation.
Along with Natural England’s three licences issued in April and May, users now have a more comprehensive set of licences to operate under.
Throughout this difficult period I have sought to make sure that those who need to control wild birds can continue to do so lawfully. With the introduction of Defra’s new licences there are a greater number of options for this than the previous system, and I will try to set out these options in a little more detail.
The background to this is that Natural England revoked the three general licences GL04, 05 and 06 in April following a legal challenge and subsequent legal advice which concluded that the three licences were unlawful. We then issued three new general licences GL26, GL28 and GL31 for some of the species and purposes covered by the original licences. These remain in place and users can continue to take control permitted by these licences in accordance with their terms and conditions.
We also introduced an interim system for issuing individual licences for those not covered by a new general licence. Natural England remains responsible for issuing individual licences, and users who have received one of these individual licences can continue to operate under them should they wish, even if it covers the same species and circumstances as one of Defra’s new licences.
The new general licences do not permit taking or destroying the nests and eggs of herring gull and lesser black-backed gull, or lethal control of lesser black-backed gulls. This is based on our advice to Defra that including them on a general licence risked further weakening their conservation status. Natural England has already started work on a new class licence, ready for next year’s breeding season, for control of nests and eggs. Anyone who needs to control lesser black-backed gulls can apply for an individual licence.
Whichever licence a user chooses to rely on, they will need to ensure they comply with the conditions and requirements of that licence. We have now issued over 2000 new individual licences but some applicants are currently waiting for a final determination. I expect that many of these applications will no longer be needed as many circumstances and species for which people have applied over the last few weeks are now covered by the new general licences. Therefore, we will be contacting everyone whose individual licence application is pending, to ensure users know the options available to them and to ask them if they wish to continue with their applications. At the same time we will explain what additional information we may need from them to determine their licence, given the change to the overall picture as a result of the Secretary of State’s decisions.
In the meantime, I would encourage licence users who are uncertain to look at the questions and answers and the “decision tree” in the Defra and Natural England position statement.
Natural England will work closely with Defra on its review of the longer-term general licence arrangements, beginning with a public consultation before the end of the summer. Our aim has always been to ensure that there is a robust licensing system in place which takes into account the needs of people and wildlife.