This week, Natural England launched a screening process for people planning to apply for an individual licence to control wild birds this year. This is specifically aimed at those practitioners who may have previously operated under the General Licence. We have introduced this process ahead of the application window for these individual licences, which opens on 1 February. This blog will explain our approach to bird licensing following the introduction of the more refined Defra General Licences (GL) on 1 January.
Changes to General licences
The new GLs cover the same purposes as the previous ones - conservation, preserving public health and public safety, and preventing serious damage, but some bird species can no longer be controlled under the new licences. Natural England and Defra have worked closely together over the past year to ensure that approaches to the new GLs and individual licensing are aligned and in November we published a blog which sets out the approach we will be taking as a result of the GL review changes. This will provide further useful background on the changes, including about the species that have come off the GL and how the process will work this year.
Just as the GL is provided to allow control to take place where there is evidence of widespread need, the rule of thumb for those considering applying for an individual licence is that we will need to see specific evidence that action is required at a particular location, and that lethal control is likely to be effective.
Applications for a licence using the conservation purpose are most likely to be successful where its use is directly linked to maintaining populations of native endangered or vulnerable species, and the species or habitat benefiting from the proposed action is in a poorer conservation status than the species a licence applicant aims to control.
It is therefore unlikely we would issue many licences to control green listed species to conserve other green listed species. The control of any amber or red listed species will require compelling local evidence of a threat to an even more endangered species.
Following last year’s urban gull survey, we will not be changing our approach to licensing in towns radically and will still require integrated management plans, setting out evidence that non-lethal strategies are in place.
The new screening service
One improvement to the process we have made for this year is the introduction of the screening service
for those interested in applying for an individual licence for conservation or health/health and safety reasons. It aims to ensure people have clarity as early in the year as possible so they can start planning their management work. This online service asks about the species to be controlled, reasons for control and what evidence of need there is.
The screening should take less than ten minutes to fill out and we are aiming to provide a quick response on the likelihood of gaining an individual licence and what evidence would be required. Where applications have a chance of succeeding, applicants will be given a pre-populated application form and an adviser to help them through the process as quickly as possible so that management works can be planned in good time.