Major changes to the General Licence announced by Natural England, on 23rd April at less than 36 hours notice, will put thousands of people at risk of unknowingly breaking the law whilst controlling species such as pigeons and carrion crows from Thursday 25th April.
This page keeps members and supporters up to date with the latest information, press releases and statements. The General Licence page contains a list of all the republished licences and projected timeline for the rest and our advice page contains all the information required to let you make a decision on your next move.
Countryside Alliance submission to Defra's Call for Evidence
You can download and read the Countryside Alliance's submission to Defra on their call for evidence here.
The Countryside Alliance's submission focuses on the actions Defra need to urgently take to rectify the situation and the legal uncertainity behind Natural England's decision to revoke the General Liccences in the first place. Our conclusions were as follows:
1. The Secretary of State or appropriate authority need to communicate quickly and clearly their plan to bring about a new set of licences that reflect the users’ requirements, and these need to be put in place as matter of urgency
2. Consultations and assessments should continue to take place at regular intervals to ensure the correct species remain on the General Licence, and that the delivery of the General Licences is working for those that need to use them.
3. The Secretary of State or appropriate authority need to satisfy themselves that whilst there are non-lethal methods that can be applied, they are not always practical, can be costly, and time-consuming. In making this judgement the users should be allowed to make their own decision on the best action to take forward.
Joint letter to Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove MP
Eight leading countryside organisations have sent a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in which they have raised their concerns at the way in which the three General Licenses were temporarily withdrawn by Natural England with just two days warning, asking him to make a full investigation as to who made what decision, when, and why. The Secretary of State has also been asked to ensure Natural England consults with all our organisations without delay, so that the new general licenses being produced by Natural England are fit for purpose. Read the letter here.
Follow up communication
Following Defra's Call for Evidence a joint letter to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove requests a number of key changes are made to the licenceing system. The letter states:
"Every day lost to the ongoing crisis sees more gamebirds, wildlife, crops and livestock damaged by these very common problematic birds. We trust and hope that the evidence review will reverse the gold plating and mission creep that has led to the current chaos, and produce simple, workable licences covering all species and purposes previously included." Read the full letter here.
Following the decision to revoke the licences, Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said:
"The ability to control several species of wild birds through licensing to prevent serious damage or disease, to preserve public health or public safety, and to conserve flora and fauna under ‘open licences’ have all be revoked in an unprecedented move by the statutory agency.
"While Natural England claim a new set of licences will be brought in from 29th April the revocation and confusion over the coming days and weeks will leave farmers, pest controllers and conservationists with significant problems. The new set of licences have not yet even been consulted on, leaving huge uncertainty about the ability to control wild birds going forward.
"This comes at a particularly sensitive time when new-born lambs need protecting from crows, crops need protecting from pigeons, and dozens of red-listed species need protection from corvids. The decision also has a direct impact on pest controllers who use the General Licence to preserve public health and safety. Any delays to licences being granted because of this revocation could risk human health."