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Natural England is revoking three general licences


Natural England is revoking three general licences

Natural England is revoking three general licences for controlling certain wild birds from Thursday April 25, following a legal challenge to the way the permits have been issued which could mean users who rely on them are not acting lawfully. The licences cover 16 species including crows, magpies, rooks, jackdaws and jays, feral and wood pigeons, and some “invasive non-native species” such as Canada geese. Natural England is working on alternative measures to allow lawful control of these bird species to continue in defined situations – such as to prevent serious damage to livestock from carrion crows or health issues from feral pigeons – and it expects to issue new licences from April 29. But Guy Smith, deputy president of the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said there were “significant concerns” about the abrupt withdrawal of the general licenses. “They are absolutely necessary at this time of year when crops are particularly vulnerable to pests,” he said. “For example, a flock of pigeons could decimate a farmer's field of crops. “We understand Natural England will be reissuing the licenses from 29 April and for the NFU it is a matter of priority that they do that. It is incredibly disappointing that farmers and growers find themselves in this position, particularly at this time of year.” Cambridgeshire farmer Tim Breitmeyer, who is president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) added: “It is hugely disappointing that Natural England is being diverted into reviewing these licences for no practical benefit. This will place additional strain on their limited resources, further breeding an ever growing sense of frustration at a time when farmers are proactively engaging with the environmental agenda. “These licenses have worked successfully for many years, enabling farms and rural businesses to produce a secure supply of food alongside protection for young livestock, farmland birds and other wildlife from a range of predatory wild birds. This decision means farmers and land managers are now plunged into uncertainty at a critical season for both wildlife and farming. General licences were introduced in the 1990s to allow the legal control of bird species of low conservation concern to protect public health and safety, prevent serious damage and disease, and protect plants and wildlife. After the three licences under review have been revoked – and until new licences are issued – anyone needing to control one of the 16 bird species where there is “no reasonable non-lethal alternative” will need to apply for an individual licence, otherwise they could be committing an offence. Natural England's interim chief executive Marian Spain said: “We recognise this change will cause disruption for some people, but we are working hard to ensure it is kept to a minimum. “We will bring forward interim measures as quickly as possible as the first stage of our planned review of the licences. We want to make sure our licensing system is robust and proportionate, taking into account the needs of wildlife and people.” • For more information on the licensing changes see the Natural England website. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/wildlife-licences


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