BASC challenges Natural England’s wildfowling review

BASC is challenging plans by Natural England (NE) to review the system of ‘consents’ it uses to provide permission for wildfowling on coastal areas.

Consents are the legal paperwork that ensures wildfowling can take place on sites that fall within national conservation designated areas.

BASC has today asked government to intervene to ensure that the current approach to consenting continues. BASC has also sought updated legal advice.

James Green, BASC’s head of wildfowling, said: “Wildfowling clubs have regulated shooting and protected the habitats in these areas for generations. It has been a job well done.

“Wildfowling has coexisted on many sites perfectly well with other activities such as dog walking and bird watching. It is wholly disproportionate for Natural England to threaten to now dismantle this system.”

Natural England has stated they are unable to renew wildfowling consents when there is uncertainty about other levels of shooting activity within European Protected Sites.

But BASC believes NE does not have the resources to conduct the assessments they believe are required in time for the start of the season  – which means some clubs may not be able to shoot in the season ahead.

James Green added: “In essence, a wildfowling club could have its consent to shoot refused because Natural England has not done, and can’t feasibly do, the work required to assess the level of shooting in other areas. It is a bureaucratic nonsense that must be fought.

“It is quite wrong to stop shooting on one area of well managed marsh because NE has failed in other areas of the same estuary. It is wholly unfair.

“NE is seeking to gold-plate its consenting system but that’s an approach that stands to be ruinous for wildfowling clubs. It will also negatively impact the wildlife and habitats that benefit from the work done by wildfowlers to protect the areas they shoot.

“BASC is already engaging available option to fight this on behalf of wildfowling clubs and the wider shooting community. We will support clubs and consider every available legal and political options to protect the future of wildfowling and shooting.”

What we know right now:

  • Natural England have yet to provide BASC with a formal position paper, we are urgently seeking this.
  • We are, however, led to believe that Natural England see the review of consents as a long-term project.
  • We understand that the focus is on older consents that pre-date NE’s current consenting framework, introduced in 2009 and subject to a national consultation in 2017/18.

Impact on the 2020/21 Wildfowling Season

  • We understand that NE are not planning to take action on consents that are already in place before the start of this wildfowling season, including those consents that have already completed this year.
  • Currently BASC is aware of 2 consents that has been refused by NE, and a further 3 consents that are yet to complete and therefore might also be affected.  The circumstances of each of these consents is different, and we will be working closely with the clubs involved to seek practical solutions for the forthcoming season.
  • If your club has a consent for wildfowling with NE that has not yet completed and you are not currently working with BASC, please let us know as soon as possible.  We need to have a complete picture to inform our political and legal discussions

What members can do right now

  • If you are a club member about to renew subscriptions, please continue to do so.  This does not present an immediate threat to the vast majority of clubs, and we are in touch with those affected.
  • If you are a club member who has not yet submitted your bag returns for last season, you should do this immediately in whatever format your club committee requires.
  • If we need you to write to your MP we will let you know, this is not necessary right now but may change quickly.  As the press release states, BASC is engaged in political and legal discussions.

What your club can do right now

  • If your club has a consent for wildfowling with NE that has not yet completed and you are not currently working with BASC, please let us know as soon as possible.  We need to have a complete picture to inform our political and legal discussions
  • Club committee members should make sure copies of the latest consents from NE are to hand.  If you are unsure about the details, scan a copy and email it to us for guidance: wildfowling@basc.org.uk.  Do not post, due to Covid-19 restrictions this will slow up the process.
  • Ensure your club has a summary of bag returns for all the sites it manages, ideally covering a period of 10 to 15 years.  You do not need to do anything with this right now, but it is important the records are to hand.  If you have a Crown Estate foreshore lease, BASC already has these records.

A copy of the BASC standard format for returns summaries is available on the BASC website, click here.