Natural England has revised its reform to general licences and decided to drop the "shoo before you shoot" condition whilst making a host of changes to its proposals

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A controversial proposal to introduce a “shoo before you shoot” condition to the general licence has been abandoned by Natural England (NE). The proposal was one of several changes to the general licence in England and Wales under consideration and which went out to consultation earlier this year.

The “shoo before you shoot” condition would have introduced a requirement for pigeon shooters to demonstrate that they had tried alternative pest-contol methods such as scaring before resorting to shooting. The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) described NE’s announcement as “a victory for common sense and the countryside”.

Several organisations, including BASC, the Countryside Alliance (CA), the NGO and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), submitted detailed responses to the consultation and encouraged their members and supporters to do the same. Natural England received more than 2,000 responses by the time the consultation closed in May.

Charles Nodder, the NGO’s political adviser, said: “Gamekeepers will be encouraged that at last an environmental quango has listened to the views of ordinary countrymen and women.”

He added: “Gone is the proposal to take jays, jackdaws and collared doves off the general licence. Also gone is the crazy idea to ‘shoo before you shoot’, which would have required individuals to implement non-lethal measures such as scaring before being able to shoot or trap pests like pigeons and magpies. What’s more, an attempt by Natural England to give itself new powers to deny someone the right to operate under a licence on suspicion of wildlife crime but without a court verdict of guilt has been scrapped.”

CA executive chairman Barney White-Spunner said: “We welcome the fact that Natural England has largely listened to the concerns and experience of those who manage the countryside. General Licences are there to enable necessary management and it is vital that Natural England continues to listen to those responsible for that management.”

BASC chairman Alan Jarrett said: “The Natural England board has taken a broad common sense view of the numerous suggested changes and we welcome their practical approach, particularly in abandoning the proposal to ‘shoo before you shoot’ and not introducing an arbitrary reclassification of hooded and carrion crow.”

Richard Ali, BASC chief executive, said his organisation remains committed to ensuring that the principles of better regulation are followed and that all regulation should be clear, accountable, consistent, targeted and transparent.

“We believe there is still scope for red tape to be reduced and for the general licences to be simplified to make them more effective,” he said. “We will continue to press for such changes.”

A number of other proposals remain under consideration.

What has changed?

  • “Shoo before you shoot” proposals dropped
  • No new requirement for users to confirm they have read or understood the terms of the licence
  • Jackdaws, jays, hooded crows and collared doves to remain on the general licence for agricultural protection
  • Egyptian goose to be added to general licence for air safety and agricultural protection
  • Greylag goose to be added for air safety only (curlew, stock dove and oystercatcher not added)

What is Natural England still considering?

  • Creating new class licences for large gull control
  • Introducing a code of practice to replace some of the current licence conditions and to show best practice
  • The time limit for keeping live birds as decoys in a trap and for which live decoys can be retained
  • Introducing a referenced tagging for trapping system
  • Allowing Larsen-mate traps under licence
  • Introducing a more detailed system for monitoring wild bird control carried out under the general licences.