by Countryside Alliance

It has been announced that  Defra Secretary of State, Michael Gove, has decided that the powers to make final decisions in relation to the granting of general licences for the management of certain wild birds under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 should be returned to him, with this transfer of responsibility having taken effect from 9am today, Saturday 4th May. Confidence in Natural England’s ability to deal with the growing General Licence crisis had been lost by countryside groups; a crisis that has left tens of thousands of farmers, conservationists and pest controllers unable to protect livestock and livelihoods, and enraged by Natural England’s ability to run an effective licensing system.

This decision follows the publication of the latest General Licence to control wood pigeons to prevent damage to crops. The licence was published late on Friday night (3rd April), with no prior warning, and has been deemed as completely unfit for purpose and impossible to act under in many situations. The other two new General Licences previously issued by Natural England were also found to be totally unfit for purpose.

Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said; “This decision to take the growing crisis to the highest level of government is to be welcomed, but unfortunately it is already too late for those that require the use of the General Licence on a daily basis to protect their crops, livestock and wild birds.

“The publication of the wood pigeon General Licence is the latest licence to be printed that is completely unfit for purpose. It leaves the user unable to undertake necessary pigeon control throughout the year in the context of an increasing population in certain areas. Whilst Natural England have secured their position legally they have enforced new requirements and conditions on the user making the lethal control impossible in many circumstances without fear of prosecution. 

“This latest licence to be published showcases the requirement of Defra taking quick and urgent action to ensure the licences are effective and as easy to use as the last set. We will be working with Defra to ensure changes are made to this latest licence and the rest as quickly as possible.”

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