General licences are issued by government agencies to provide a legal basis for people to carry out a range of activities relating to wildlife. By definition you do not need to apply for general licences but you are required by law to abide by their terms and conditions.
General licences are renewed annually in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These general licences are made available on the websites of the relevant government agencies and include those general licences relevant to the all year round control of ‘pest birds’ such as carrion and hooded crows, magpies and woodpigeon. Control methods allowed under general licence may include shooting; the destruction of eggs and nests; and the use of cage traps such as larsen traps, larsen mates and multi-catch traps.
The rest of this webpage contains the latest information for the general licences in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The English general licences was renewed on 1st January 2016. A consultation seeking to make significant changes took place during 2014 but following a massive response from shooters proposals of concern were dropped and Natural England (NE) have also taken on board feedback from the consultation to make the licences clearer and easier to understand and use. There is now a new format which means that licences will differ in look from 2014, but, there are no substantive changes to the conditions of the licences.
The Scottish general licences was renewed 1st January 2016. There is a new amendment which allows Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to reserve the right to exclude the use of General Licence by “certain persons and/or on certain areas of land where there is evidence to suggest that a wild bird or birds have either been killed, injured or taken or where there has been an attempt to do so other than in accordance with a licence, or where General Licences are being misused”.
BASC raised serious judicial concerns when this idea was first put forward in 2013. BASC believes there is scope for innocent land managers to be unfairly penalised and for necessary control of some bird species to be prevented and we will be monitoring closely SNH’s use of these potential restrictions.
The Welsh general licences was renewed on 1st January 2016.
Find out more
More general information is available from the BASC website on the control of avian and mammalian pests and predators, including relevant BASC codes of practice.