The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Confusion ensues after general licence GL43 expires

Defra's failure to replace GL43 means that release of pheasants and partridges is restricted

Male Pheasant

As Shooting Times reported on May 24, Defra is supposed to have introduced a variation of the general licence in line with European statutes barring the release of any near game birds near conservation areas. The rules prohibit release of gamebirds within 500 metres of a designated European Special Protection Area or a Special Area of Conservation.

On May 30, the previous general licence expired, making it illegal to release gamebirds without applying and securing an individual licence, but the anticipated new licence has yet to be introduced.

Defra says: “Based on Natural England’s 2023 advice, Defra have made the decision not to include releases of gamebirds on sites which are designated as SPAs or within 500m of the boundaries of SPAs from the scope of GL43 for the 2023 and 2024 gamebird release seasons.” (Read more on the Defra decision here.)

Defra continues: “Natural England have also advised that for releases onto SPAs, and their 500m buffer zones, it has not been ascertained … that there will be no adverse effect. In these instances, individual licences from Natural England will need to be applied for to allow a case-by-case technical assessment of each proposal. ”

BASC chief executive Ian Bell said: “Defra has refused to engage with the shooting community on this issue and has created massive confusion and concern at a critical point in the year when shoots are on the brink of releasing.

“This is wholly unacceptable behaviour by a government department and will not go unchallenged by BASC. We will be pressing Defra and government in the strongest of terms.

“Defra has released only limited information at the moment, so BASC will continue to update our members and the wider shooting community as more information becomes available.”