General licence renewed for gamebird release in SACs, but SPAs left in limbo

A red legged partridge

Following weeks of confusion and concern, Defra has finally reissued GL43, the general licence that permits the release of gamebirds on or within a buffer zone of Special Areas of Conservation in England. Releasing on or within 500m of a Special Protection Area, however, still requires an individual licence.

The general licence will run for two years and will cover shoots releasing gamebirds in or within 500m of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). The licence does not have to be applied for, but users must comply with the conditions within the licence.

Unlike last year, the licence will not cover the release of gamebirds in or near to Special Protection Areas (SPAs), meaning it is illegal to release gamebirds in those areas without an individual licence.

Individual licences must be applied for through the Natural England website. BASC is in the process of collating evidence to assess the possibility of launching a legal challenge against this decision. We have also written an open letter to the Defra Minister, Trudy Harrison MP, regarding the failure to provide clear policy regarding GL43.

Dr Marnie Lovejoy, head of evidence and environmental law at BASC, said: “This information is weeks late and, with a refusal to communicate with the shooting sector, Defra is clearly shooting from the hip with these policy decisions. Those shoots not able to rely on the general licence have been thrown into limbo, with no knowledge of how long the application for an individual licence will take, or the conditions that will have to be met.

“Running a shoot is a year-round activity, significant money, time and resources have already been spent in the run up to releasing gamebirds. Throwing down a political gauntlet of having to apply for a licence at the eleventh hour could be financially devastating for the hundreds of shoots impacted.

“BASC is asking that all shoots releasing on or within 500m of a Special Protected Area contact their local BASC regional office. Our staff are on hand to provide advice and will be collating information to enable us the best opportunity in launching legal action.”

If you or your shoot has been financially affected by Defra’s decision to remove GL43, please contact your local regional BASC office immediately by clicking the link below. Our teams will talk you through the changes and are collating the damage caused.