Latest News from BPCA

26 April 2019

Interim measures for controlling birds now that general licences have been revoked

Last night (Thursday 25 April) the general licences for bird control in England were revoked after a legal challenge.

Natural England is expected to release new licences next week; however, pest management professionals can still legally use lethal control of wild birds to:

  •         To prevent serious damage and disease
  •         To conserve wild birds, wild flora and fauna
  •         To protect public health and safety.

However, you must have followed and satisfied all of the required steps for each individual case.

If you require lethal control to be carried out before the determination

In short, BPCA’s guidance is that those controlling pests before the new general licences have been released should apply for an individual licence from Natural England.

Natural England has stated that there are three options for controlling the 16 species of birds, including several members of the crow family, Canada geese, some gulls, feral and wood pigeons.

For most pest management professionals, BPCA expects that in the interim, you will have to use option 3 because of the time critical nature of public health pest management.

Option 1: Wait for the new licences

Natural England has said:

“New licences are due to go live on gov.uk from 26 April and over the following days.

“These will cover the majority of circumstances previously covered by the revoked licences, to ensure landowners can continue to take necessary action, whilst also taking into account the needs of wildlife.

“If you are able to wait until the licence you need becomes available you can rely on this and need take no further action if you satisfied that it covers your circumstances”.

An indicative timeline for these new licences is included at the bottom of this release.

Option 2: Apply for individual licences

Natural England has said:

“Anybody who needs to act within the law to control wild birds before the licence they need is ready can rely on a simple online application system for individual licences.

“This went live on Thursday evening (25 April)”.

Once you’ve applied for a licence, that licence will cover you for the bird species and the reason for control in all instance in England.

That means you don’t need a new licence every time you start a job, as long as it’s not for a different species or reason not covered in your existing licence (until the end of the year).

Apply now

Option 3: If you need to kill birds before you get a licence

Pest management professionals will normally have to carry out lethal control before getting a confirmed licence back from Natural England.

The process for this seems to be:

  1. Exhaust all non-lethal control measures
  2. Submit an application for an individual licence (available here)  
  3. Conduct the lethal control of the wild bird
  4. Notify Natural England as soon as possible about what you’ve done and why (birds2019@naturalengland.org.uk).

Once you’ve applied for a licence, that licence will cover you for the bird species and the reason for control in all instance in England.

That means you don’t need a new licence every time you start a job, as long as it’s not for a different species or reason not covered in your existing licence (until the end of the year).

We can’t stress enough that you must have followed and satisfied all of the required steps for each individual case.

The Natural England website states:

“If you require lethal control to be carried out before the determination of your licence application then you may not commit an offence provided that you do the following.

“You must be able to show that your action is necessary for the purpose of:

  • “preserving public health or public safety or air safety;
  • “preventing the spread of disease; or
  • “preventing serious damage to livestock, their foodstuffs, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters. You must also be able to show that there was no other satisfactory solution available for preventing such serious damage.

“In addition, you must have submitted the relevant application for a licence for the relevant purpose above and notified Natural England.

“If action is taken to prevent serious damage outlined above, Natural England must be notified as soon as reasonably practical after you have taken the action. This can be done by sending an email to birds2019@naturalengland.org.uk.

Problems with the Natural England licence applications and mailboxes

We’ve seen reports that the Natural England licence application form doesn’t open for some users.

This has been reported to Natural England, however, it seems that you can open the PDF document with Adobe Reader, rather than viewing it in an internet browser.

Some users have experienced emails bouncing back from the Natural England site.

Natural England flowchart

Natural England has released a flowchart to cover what you should do in what circumstances.

Flowchart for interim measures

If this does not answer your questions, you may contact our general enquiries line on 0300 060 3900 or enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk and our staff will do all they can to assist you.

What are the 16 affected species?

  • Canada geese
  • collared doves
  • crows
  • Egyptian geese
  • feral pigeons
  • herring gulls
  • Indian house crows
  • jackdaws
  • jays
  • lesser black-backed gulls
  • magpies
  • monk parakeets
  • ring-necked parakeets
  • rooks
  • sacred Ibis
  • woodpigeons.

Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland licences

Similar general licences in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not been revoked, and therefore pest management professionals can continue to use them for the control of wild birds.

Scottish Natural Heritage has said:

“We would like to firstly reassure those who are currently operating under our similar licences that these remain in place in Scotland, allowing those who comply with the conditions to continue to use them”.

Read the full release

Natural Resources Wales has said to BPCA:

“We are aware of the changes Natural England is making to general licences used for controlling certain species of wild birds.

“In balancing the needs of people and wildlife we have a similar role to Natural England and are currently considering our position.

“We continue working to improve our processes and permits, and strive to do this in partnership with others, as we all work towards a resilient and biodiverse Wales.”

Northern Ireland Environment Agency has not responded to us with a statement at this time.

What next?

An indicative timetable for new licences issued on a priority basis published by Natural England (subject to the assessments for each of the licences being confirmed).

It states as follows:

Priority 1: To be issued from week commencing 29 April or sooner.

  •         Prevent serious damage to livestock – Carrion crow
  •         Conserving wild bird – magpie
  •         Conserving wild bird – Carrion crow
  •         Prevent serious damage to crops – woodpigeon
  •         Prevent serious damage to crops – Rook
  •         Prevent serious damage to crops – Canada goose
  •         Preserving public health and public safety – Feral pigeon
  •         Preserving public health and public safety – Canada goose
  •         Preserving public health and public safety – Lesser Black Backed Gull
  •         Preserving public health and public safety – Herring gull.

Priority 2: To be issued from w/c 13 May

  •         Conserve wild birds - Canada goose
  •         Prevent the spread of disease - Feral pigeon
  •         Prevent serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock – Carrion crow
  •         Prevent serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock – Rook
  •         Prevent serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock – Carrion crow
  •         Prevent serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock – Rook
  •         Prevent serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock – Magpie.

Priority 3: date to confirmed

  •         Preserving public health and public safety - Monk parakeet
  •         Conserve wild birds - Rook
  •         Conserve wild birds - Jackdaw
  •         Conserve wild birds - Jay
  •         Conserve wild birds - Ring-necked parakeet
  •         Conserve wild birds - Monk parakeet
  •         Prevent serious damage to crops - Feral pigeon
  •         Prevent serious damage to crops - Carrion crow
  •         Prevent serious damage to crops - Jackdaw
  •         Prevent serious damage to crops - Egyptian goose
  •         Prevent serious damage to vegetables/fruit - Wood pigeon
  •         Prevent serious damage to vegetables/fruit - Rook
  •         Prevent the spread of disease - Rook
  •         Prevent the spread of disease - Jackdaw
  •         Prevent the serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock - Woodpigeon
  •         Prevent the serious damage to foodstuffs for livestock - Feral pigeon.

National England position statement

Natural England has released a position statement this morning with the above advice.

On the revocation of the licences Marian Spain, interim chief executive of Natural England, has said:

“There has been a large amount of media coverage and interest in the decision to revoke the three general licences. These cover 16 species of birds, including several members of the crow family, Canada geese, some gulls, feral and wood pigeons.

“Natural England announced on Tuesday (23 April) that the general licences would be revoked at 11.59pm on Thursday 25 April, as a result of a legal challenge. The decision to revoke the general licences is not a decision we took lightly and we recognise the disruption it has caused. We explored all options available and were left with no choice but to revoke licences. This was disappointing but we fully accept the need to comply with the law.

“Natural England has been working urgently to identify alternative solutions for all those affected, and to convey as clearly as possible the action individuals can take to mitigate disruption. We are committed to working closely with farmers, pest controllers, gamekeepers and other professionals working in the countryside to ensure everyone who needs to control these birds can.

“General licences will be restored as quickly as possible, starting with those species that are most likely to require urgent control. This will mean landowners can continue to take necessary action as they do now, whilst also taking into account the needs of wildlife. The first licences, including one to allow control of corvids which are causing damage to livestock will be ready 26 April. Others will follow in the coming days, according to the timetable shown on gov.uk.

“In the interim, before these general licences are available, where there is no reasonable non-lethal alternative, you can rely on a simple and quick online application system to obtain individual licences to control wild birds. These are accessible on the gov.uk website.

“I recognise, as does my team at Natural England, that these interim measures will cause disruption for licence users. We are working hard to ensure it is kept to a minimum. We also recognise that there may be instances of genuine emergency where immediate action may be taken.

“This is not a ban on control, it is a change to the licences that allow control to take place.

“Our priority at the moment is getting the new licensing regime up and running, so users are acting within the law. We will consult with stakeholders in advance of the wider review of general licensing that will take place later this year.

“Anyone requiring further assistance should visit gov.uk guidance page”.

We’ll continue to share updates as we get them.

Source: Online

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