The Countryside Alliance, Moorland Association and National Gamekeepers Organisation have welcomed the announcement by DEFRA that six General Licences for the control of wild birds will be reissued on a temporary basis ahead of new licences coming into force on 1 January 2021.
The current General Licences had been due to expire on July 31st.
The decision comes in the wake of a joint paper, “Wildlife Licencing in England: Chaos, Crises and Cure” that was sent by the three organisations to DEFRA Secretary of State, George Eustice, at the beginning of this month.
The paper highlighted the complete chaos with which Natural England has overseen wildlife licensing, both through the General Licences and Individual Licences. Until last year, predator control on European protected sites was possible under the General Licence, but since then people hoping to protect wildlife in protected sites have been forced to apply for an Individual Licence.
At a recent meeting, Natural England revealed that since January this year they have received 1,200 applications for Individual Licences, but to date had only managed to evaluate 700, with just 73 of those granting conservation action. Most of those only granted some but not all of the planned activity.
Furthermore, many of those successful applications have been issued with conditions that make them unworkable: such as not allowing predatory gulls to be shot if the practitioner is within 750m of the nest site they are looking to protect.
73 approved licences out of 1,200 applications is a success rate of just 6%. The catastrophic handling of Individual Licences by Natural England has therefore meant that conservation action on protected sites, often designated for their populations of vulnerable red listed species, is down by 94%. One bird to suffer has been the curlew, the species of highest conservation concern in the United Kingdom. This is unacceptable from the Government’s advisor for the natural environment of England, with responsibility for protecting our nature and landscapes.
A spokesman for the organisations said: “We look forward to working with other stakeholders to see wildlife licensing being removed from Natural England, and brought back into central Government, so that we can have a licensing system that not only works for licence holders, licence makers, and for wildlife, but also one that can be more efficient, effective and cheaper.”