General and individual licence update for England

The newly published general licences for England include both satisfactory improvements and some aspects of concern. BASC continues to represent our members by working with all the licensing bodies across the UK. This includes engaging with Natural England’s (NE) new individual licence application screening process for the control of wild birds.

Optimistically, and unlike last year, the English general licences now cover European Protected Sites (such as Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation) albeit with some additional conditions relating to some of these sites. This will make controlling ‘pest birds’ over these sites easier and quicker as there will no longer be a need to apply for an individual licence, as was previously required.

However, users do need to be aware of changes to GL40, ‘the conservation licence’, which as of 2021 includes a controversial and unsupportable change that control under this licence can now only be carried out to conserve bird species which are endangered i.e. red or amber listed.

This means the general licence cannot be used to conserve green listed species. BASC is opposed to this change. Without the use of a general licence or ability to gain an individual licence (as has been suggested by NE) to conserve green listed species they could quickly become ‘at risk’.

In addition, while jackdaws and rooks can still be controlled for certain other purposes, it is no longer permissible to control them for conservation purposes (GL40). BASC believes these species can cause damage to conservation efforts and continues to make the case for their inclusion on this licence. Likewise jays can now only be controlled to conserve endangered woodland birds.

BASC is advising members that where there is not a general licence in place to cover the species or situation where control is required, then an individual licence application should be submitted to NE at the earliest opportunity.

Last year there were significant issues and delays with processing individual licence applications. NE has launched a pre-screening service for anyone considering applying for such a licence to improve the process. The service should take less than ten minutes to complete and NE will provide a quick response advising of the likelihood of a licence being issued and what evidence would be required to be successful.

NE further advises that the application window for individual licences for the control of wild birds will open on 1st February 2021.

Glynn Evans, BASC’s head of game and gundogs, said: “The fact that the latest English general licences now apply to European protected sites is a definite improvement and should mean that there will be a decrease in the need for individual licences for these areas.

“The handling of individual licence applications last year by NE was beset by significant delays which impacted conservation efforts. This pre-screening service is a welcome attempt to streamline the efficiency of the application process. We will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure the required improvements are made.

“Anyone who needs to carry out control not covered by a general licence should apply to NE for an individual licence.”

There is more advice on general licences across the UK on the BASC website and any member needing help or advice can contact BASC for assistance.