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Defra updates its Gamebird Licensing Frequently Asked Questions Document

Updated on Monday 21st August 2023

Defra has updated its Gamebird Licensing Frequently Asked Questions document to assist licence applicants with general enquiries around changes to GL43. The document, which replaces the information contained in the previous version published in early July, can be read here.

Updated on Thursday 1st June 2023

Defra has now published its new General Licence 43 for the release of common pheasants or red-legged partridges on certain European sites or within 500m of their boundary. The Licence, which is applicable to England, was published on 31 May and is valid for two years until 30 May 2025.

The new licence has one major change to the previous interim licence that expired on 30 May in that the General Licence will no longer apply to the release of gamebirds on sites that are designated Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Having assessed the risk of avian influenza being transmitted to SPA populations of wild birds by released gamebirds during 2023, and new advice on that risk which has been provided by Natural England, Defra has excluded the release of gamebirds on SPAs or within 500m of their boundaries from General Licence 43. Defra’s policy paper on its assessment of the 2023 Habitats Regulations Assessment and how it came to its decision to issue the new General Licence 43 can be read here.

General Licence 43 therefore now only authorises the release of a specified density of gamebirds on Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), or within 500m of the boundaries of those SACs. Those wishing to release gamebirds on SPAs or within 500m of their boundaries will now need to apply for an Individual Licence from Natural England, instead of operating under General Licence 43. This also includes those sites that hold a joint designation of both Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and SPA. You can check on England’s online advice service whether you need to apply for an Individual Licence. Subject to any new evidence, amendments may be made during the two-year period of the Licence. 

This substantive change to the General Licence has been made by Defra having had no engagement with shooting organisations. We were first made aware of it on 10 May, and despite our lobbying efforts to try and ensure that any changes to the conditions of the Licence were necessary, proportionate, and workable, the late stage at which it was announced has resulted in concern and uncertainty, at a time of the year when shoots will have already made their plans for releasing. For the new Licence to be published after the previous one had expired is unacceptable. There remain considerable concerns around the time frame for the granting of Individual Licences for the release of gamebirds on SPA’s and within of 500m of their boundaries, and Defra must ensure that all applications are processed as a matter of urgency.

Full details of the new General Licence 43, and the conditions that apply, can be read here.

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