30 June 2020

Open letter to Natural England: Individual licences for gull control in England, this year and beyond

Today, BPCA has written to Dave Slater, the Director for wildlife licensing at Natural England regarding the future of individual licences for gull control. 


The letter expresses our disappointment at the current state of licences for gull control. It seeks to bring the Association and NE together to find a workable balance between public health and conservation.

Herring and lesser black-backed gulls were removed from General Licences in England this year due to concerns regarding the conservation status of gulls.

The new system of individual licences has seen significant delays and many licence applications rejected.

You can read the letter in full here:

Mr Dave Slater
Director for wildlife licensing
Natural England
County Hall
Spetchley Road
United Kingdom

RE: Individual licences of gull control in England, this year and beyond

Dear Dave Slater,

I write to you on behalf of the members of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA). BPCA represents over 700 professional pest management companies across the UK.

We recognise that Natural England has a difficult role in balancing the conservation status of herring and lesser black-backed gulls with their risk to public health and safety.

We also recognise that the recent legal challenges by Wild Justice mean that we’ve never been closer to losing some wildlife licences altogether; it’s only right that you need to adapt the process to protect licences in the long run.

However, we believe that our sector needs a better line of communication between Natural England and our members who protect human health and safety.

This year has been disastrous on several fronts:

  1. Applicants have clearly not understood the requirements for licence applications and the content they need to provide for evidence
  2. Enough warning was not given that historical evidence would be required, meaning that evidence wasn’t collected in the previous breeding season (record-keeping was not mandatory previously)
  3. The volume and quality of applications led to significant delays, particularly during the breeding season.

The Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably exacerbated delays. Now we’re left with many pest management companies without licences for protecting people from problem birds.

Most of our members were left unable to undertake any lethal control this season (including egg removal) in a situation where there was a clear risk.

We fear that litigation could be being pursued by some sectors for damage caused by failure to issue licences.

As this gull season draws to a close, we write to you to open up a dialogue, so a year like this is never repeated.

As a sector, we will commit to trying all reasonable non-lethal measures before we ask permission to cull.

In return, we ask Natural England to:

  • Urgently start a conversation with us on individual licences for gull control
  • Consider what guidance and support NE and BPCA can provide to support the professional sector through the application process
  • Acknowledge that gulls can cause significant physical health and safety problems, as well as a lot of mental anguish and distress for those with substantial or persistent gull populations. 

Once someone is hurt, it is too late to be issuing a licence.

Together we need to support the professional sector in protecting public health and safety while balancing conservation concerns.

We propose bringing together a small group of members and your licencing team for a virtual roundtable meeting so we can work together on the next steps.

If you have other suggestions for next steps, I look forward to hearing those.

With very best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Andrew


If you're a BPCA member in need of advice on bird control and licensing, get in touch.

Source: Online

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