Defra publishes new General Licences for the control of pest and predatory birds in England to be used from 1 January 2021. General Licence guidance produced by the NGO is provided for England, Scotland and Wales at the end of this article. 

Defra’s new General Licences for the control of pest and predatory birds in England next year have been completed and published today online. They are:

  • GL40 – for the conservation of flora, fauna and endangered wild birds - click here
  • GL41 – for public health and safety - click here
  • GL42 – for the prevention of serious damage to crops and livestock - click here

Earlier this week, Defra also published:
  • GL33 –containing conditions for trapping birds using the licences above - click here
  • These licences all come into effect throughout England on 1 January 2021 and they include significant changes on the versions they will replace. All users must read and follow the licences to be sure they are complying. Some of the key changes are:
      • Rooks and jackdaws have been taken off GL40 but both species remain on GL42
      • Unlike last year, the new licences can be used in and around protected sites (SPAs and SACs) but additional condition 5 will apply in the sites it lists.
      • GL40 is limited to the conservation of endangered wild birds.

      • People can still apply to Natural England for an Individual Licence if the revised General Licences do not permit them to do what they need.

Liam Bell, Chairman of the National Gamekeepers' Organisation, said: 

“There are some things to welcome here. The licences remain the property of Defra and have not been given back to Natural England. They are also simpler. But the restriction of GL40 only to conserving endangered bird species is a big concern. No longer will a gamekeeper be able to control crows or magpies just to help wild pheasants or redleg partridges, both green listed. Unless the purpose of his action is to conserve endangered, red and amber listed birds, an individual licence will be needed.”

The new licences follow 18 months of work by Defra to gather information and review the legal position. Thousands of gamekeepers contributed evidence of damage by pest and predatory birds and the NGO, alongside other countryside organisations, made written submissions and attended many meetings with Defra.

Liam Bell, continued: 

“Account has been taken of some of what we said but we were not shown the final draft licences for comment, nor the new conditions for trapping and protected sites, despite earlier assurances that would happen.

“Overall, we think gamekeepers will be able to work within the new framework. We urge all gamekeepers to read and abide by the new General Licences and we stand ready to help members with any concerns or queries over the coming weeks and months.”


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