NE launches general licence consultation

Natural England has launched a consultation on proposed changes to general and class licenses.

The consultation will see Natural England consult with stakeholders and the general public on a range of proposed alterations. The main themes of the consultation include: the management of conflict species; animal trapping and welfare; improving licence compliance;the sale, exhibition and possession of protected species; and changes related to obligations under the EU Birds Directive.

The review and consultation will also discuss responding to the advice of the Non-Native Species secretariat, extending the range of species on the public safety and air safety general licences, simplifying and clarifying the rules regarding Larsen traps, considering making the licensing requirements for the sustainable use of wild birds clearer, and the best way to collect information about general licence use.

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has responded to the launch of the consultation, saying that most of its 15,000 members could be affected by changes to the general licences in some way, as well as impacting professional pest controllers, and wildfowlers. A spokesman said, “There are some sensible ideas in Natural England’s suggestions, such as the inclusion of greylag geese on the General Licence for controlling agricultural pests, but there are some really bad proposals too. They include a revival of the ludicrous idea that pigeon shooters should have to scare their birds before attempting to shoot them – something Labour Ministers introduced in 2005 and on which they had to exercise a rapid U-turn. The NGO will support Natural England where its proposals make sense. But we will oppose such impractical suggestions and excessive regulation tooth and nail.

“The NGO is pleased that Natural England has consulted the public, and on this occasion, unlike others, has allowed sufficient time to take account of peoples’ views. But the NGO has several serious concerns about aspects of the Natural England review, including the suggestion that a new Code of Bird Trapping Practice should have the force of law and become a legal condition of the licences. This could mean, for example, that just having dirt in the water provided for a live decoy bird could result in prosecution. Anyone who has ever operated a decoy trap knows how difficult it is to stop a captive bird fouling its own water, to say nothing of the risk of gamekeepers being maliciously set up by opponents of shooting.

“A further suggested change is that breach of any one licensing condition would disqualify the individual from operating under General Licences at all. For example, if a decoy magpie was said to have insufficient shade, that one thing could be the end of an individual’s entire gamekeeping career. It smacks of draconian rules introduced by the back door and is certainly at odds with Natural England’s pledge to ‘reduce unnecessary burdens on those we regulate’.”

To see the consultation documents, visit the Natural England website.

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