General Licences - England

General Licences in England are currently issued by Defra. You do not need to apply to use a General Licence, but you are required by law to abide by their terms and conditions.

Below are links to the current General Licences that are valid until 31 December 2023:

Valid until 31 December 2022

For further information on England General Licences, please call: 01244 573 000.

Click on the drop down FAQs below for more information

General Licences – England​ – FAQ


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.


Defra’s General Licences allow preventative action to be taken so you do not need to wait until damage has occurred.


The general licences require that, before and alongside their use, reasonable endeavours are made to achieve the purpose in question using lawful methods not covered by the licences, unless such endeavours would be impractical, without effect or disproportionate in the circumstances.

Defra advises users to keep a record of problems and their use of other lawful methods, but you do not need to submit those records to Defra or Natural England. 

Click here for more detailed advice from Defra.


Defra’s General Licences allow preventative action to be taken and there is no restriction on using decoys, shooting on stubbles, roost shooting etc.


Defra’s General Licences allow the use of Larsen traps and other cage traps to trap pest birds.

Defra General Licences GL34GL35 and GL36 did not authorise the killing or taking of pest birds in European Protected Sites (Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation or Ramsar sites) or within 300m of these sites.

The current Defra General Licences (GL40, 41 and GL42) allow for the control on these sites from 1 January 2021. 

As per the previous General Licences that were revoked by Natural England, if you are carrying out bird pest control under a general licence on a SSSI, you also need Natural England consent.

Contact your local Natural England office if you do not have consent or are unsure.

Click here for more information from Defra on bird pest control on SSSIs.

If you are a BASC member and need further advice on General Licences, please contact your regional team on 01244 573 000.

You need to apply to Natural England for an individual licence using application form A08. These need to be completed by 15 March 2020 although applications after this date may be considered.

Click here to apply for an individual licence for bird pest control of lesser black-backed gulls and herring gulls.

Further information is available:

If you have a specific need to control a species not listed on the relevant General Licence, you will need to apply for a specific individual licence from Natural England.