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Changes To General Licences For Bird Control

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

On 26 April 2019, Natural England revoked three general licences for controlling 16 species of wild birds…

…following a challenge by a new environmental NGO, Wild Justice (see Natural England press release, General licences for bird control: major changes to licensing requirements, 23 April 2019  and Wild Justice: Projects).  This is already proving to be very controversial in the rural sector and has made the news with TV’s Chris Packham having been a victim of a protest apparently arising from his involvement in the campaign leading to the changes.

General licences are standardised licences that allow anyone satisfying the eligibility criteria to carry out specified activities. The licences which have been revoked allowed the killing or taking of certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage or disease, to preserve public health or public safety or to conserve wild birds or flora or fauna. The relevant bird species include some members of the crow family, some pigeons and several types of invasive non-native species (such as Canada goose).

Carrying out relevant activities after 25 April 2019 will be an offence, save in limited circumstances under section 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 or if the person has applied for an individual licence using a simplified process that will be available from that date. The change could particularly have a significant impact on farmers (for example, in their ability to control wood pigeon on crops).

The revocation is the first stage of a planned review of general and class licences, which will be completed later in 2019. Natural England indicates it is putting in place alternative measures to allow lawful control of these species to continue where necessary.

Wilson Browne act for many farmers and landowners who no doubt will be awaiting further information as to the alternative measures to be put in place.

If you need any advice contact our Specialist Team

Ika Částka


Ika Částka

Senior Partner

Ika is Head of the Commercial Property team and has been advising individuals and businesses across Northamptonshire since 1986, specialising in commercial, agricultural and rural property matters for both businesses and individuals.