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Is trouble with general licences brewing again?

General licences issued last year expire in the next few weeks and at present nobody knows what will replace them

Crows with sheep

New general licences expire soon

Are general licences going to become unworkable again?

Last year the three main general licences for the shooting and trapping of pest birds (GL34, GL35 and GL36) were temporarily revoked after a legal challenge. After delay and discussion they were reissued by Defra with validity until 29 February 2020.

A full review of all new general licences is now overdue. Shooting groups are worried that Defra is currently not in a position to issue new general licences when they expire. Farmers, conservationists and pest controllers are also concerned.

Caroline Bedell, the British Association of Shooting & Conservation (BASC) executive director of conservation, commented: “… it has become clear that they (Defra) will struggle to issue new general licences by the end of February. They need to seriously consider extending the licences now to avoid the same mistakes as last year.

 “We have called for an end to this uncertainty with the implementation of licences that are both fit for purpose and future proofed …”

Control of pest species

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust stated: “Unfortunately, we are no clearer on Defra’s plans for general licensing arrangements for other species or indeed what arrangements are being made for control of pest species on or near protected sites. We are grateful to those of you who gave us feedback on the use of general licences last year. We submitted this report to Defra in early December as part of the General Licence review, and urge Defra to announce their plans are for licensing arrangements in England as soon as possible.

“It’s vital that those who are working hard to protect vulnerable breeding birds, ensure the welfare of livestock and maintain their crops, are given information ahead of the breeding season. We – and those who depend on the management of pest species – cannot afford a repeat of the chaos experienced in 2019.”

Liam Bell, chairman of the National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO)  continued: “You simply cannot run the essential wildlife licensing system for England in this slipshod and cavalier way. Not only does our precious national wildlife depend on workable licences, the livelihoods and jobs of people like gamekeepers and farmers depend on them too.

“Since Natural England (NE) took over licensing from Defra some years ago there has been one crisis after another – and each one has damaged the English countryside that NE is supposed to protect. New ministers rapidly need to get a grip of the quango and sort this nonsense out.”