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New general licence for gamebird releasing published

The Countryside Alliance has welcomed the announcement by the Defra Secretary of State that a new general licence (GL) for the release of common pheasants and red-legged partridge on specified Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and within 500m of their boundaries in England will be in place from 31 May 2024. The Alliance, along with our partner organisations within Aim to Sustain, has been working closely with Defra to achieve a more workable and proportionate licensing system for shoots, and we are delighted that this has resulted in a significant improvement on last year, providing greater freedom and certainty, and avoiding the need for the majority of shoots having to apply for an individual licence (IL).

The new GL45 will apply to the release of both common pheasant and red-legged partridge on 29 of the 31 SPAs that were covered by an IL last year, as well as for the Wash SPA in the case of releasing red-legged partridge. Those shoots wishing to release pheasants on the Wash SPA will still require an IL, as will shoots wishing to release pheasants and red-legged partridge in the Lower Derwent Valley SPA. Shoots wishing to keep and release common pheasants before 7 September 2024 in the Peak District Moors SPA will also be required to apply for an IL, as will any shoot in an SPA or its 500m buffer zone that is not listed in the new GL45. Any shoot in an area covered by GL45 wishing to release pheasants or red-legged partridge at variance with the conditions of GL45 would also need to apply for an IL.

The new licence does not allow the releasing of gamebirds on any Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or within 500m of its boundary unless the land is also an SPA listed in the licence. For those wishing to release on an SAC that is not also an SPA, the conditions of GL43 will still apply.

There is no requirement for shoots to apply or register to use the new GL45, but its conditions must be met. These include: release densities within the SPA and its 500m buffer zone covered by the licence; the reporting of release activity; vet checks and mandatory testing; biosecurity measures; compliance and monitoring; and SPA-specific conditions. These conditions are covered in detail in the licence

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