Defra to take control of wild bird management licensing

Defra has launched a call for evidence on the impact of Natural England’s decision to revoke three general licences for the management of certain wild birds and also taken back its powers on the issue.

In a letter, the Environment Secretary told Natural England chairman Tony Juniper, he considered it appropriate to take over ultimate decision-making powers for general licences.

Michael Gove explained that the decision had been made because of the “intensity and urgency” of the current situation.

He also said he recognised the scale of the concern generated by Natural England’s recent decision to revoke three general licences.

As a result, Defra has also initiated a formal evidence-gathering exercise into the impact of the decision.

A Defra spokesman said: “In particular, we want to gain a clear understanding of the implications for the protection of wild birds, and the impacts on crops, livestock, wildlife, disease, human health and safety and wider nature conservation efforts.

“The evidence gathered from that exercise, alongside the information that Defra and Natural England have already received since April 25 will inform decisions and approach to getting back to a satisfactory situation.

The closing date for providing views and evidence is Monday, May 13. The Secretary of State then intends to take a further week to consider the evidence gathered and make a decision.

A separate review of general licences will take place later in the year.

Responding to the announcement that Defra will now take control of wild bird management licensing, Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president Tim Breitmeyer said: “In many ways, this decision does not come as a surprise.

“Coming at a critical time of the year for farmers, this mess has not just meant more paperwork but has led to ongoing uncertainty around crop and livestock protection.

“While many in the countryside will no doubt be pleased to finally see decisive action, we hope that Defra, given its current focus on Brexit planning, has the resources to properly administer the licensing system and ensure that previous mistakes are not repeated.”