Surprise, surprise: Natural England has made getting licences for the control of birds not covered by the general licences a little bit harder. Now you need to apply to apply for an individual licence through an extra step – a ‘screening’ form. Natural England has added it to weed out applications that it might anyway reject.
It added the step this week. If you applied for a single licence for pest control in the last three weeks that the licence applications have been available, you may have wasted your time, because they didn’t get screened.
One pest controller told Fieldsports News that he filled out ten A08 application forms and sent them in. Now it’s unclear whether he needs to re-apply. It’s also not known how many people applied before the new rule, which Natural England introduced without warning.
“It’s come as a bit of a surprise to us,” says John Hope of the National Pest Technician Association. “The only reason I can assume they’ve done this is there was such an outcry last year because they were completely and utterly cocking up the individual licence applications and taking so much time to process, they’ve seen this as the way forward.”
The screening delay is adding ten working days to the application process. The applications will now take 30 days or more.
“I find it a bit crazy that there’s going to be potentially a couple of months’ wait – particularly with gulls,” says John. “But they make the rules and this is half the issue.”
The other half, he says, is that Natural England and DEFRA don’t consider gulls to be pests.
“I saw a lot of this last year. I had one company that was trying to deal with a gull problem on a bank, where the gulls were actually diving on to people and the company still couldn’t get a licence for it.”
BASC’s head of game and gundogs Glynn Evans says: “The handling of individual licence applications last year by Natural England was beset by significant delays which impacted conservation efforts. This pre-screening service is a welcome attempt to streamline the efficiency of the application process. BASC will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure the required improvements are made.”
Natural England appears to have run scared of what it calls ‘scrutiny’ by Wild Justice, the anti-shooting organisation run by TV presenter Chris Packham, says the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation. NGO chairman Liam Bell says: “The number of farmland birds in England has fallen by 57% since 1970 in a biodiversity crisis that threatens many species with extinction.
“Natural England is in danger of throwing what remains out with the bathwater by making it so difficult – impossible in the case of wild pheasants and red-legged partridges – to get predator control licences which until now have been widely available. It’s a catastrophic mistake that will harm many other vulnerable species. No justification has been given for Natural England’s sudden change of policy.”
There’s more coverage of the Natural England licensing fiasco in the links below:
General licences in England: the smallprint
Shooting seagulls: how Natural England has got it wrong
Councils pay to get rid of ‘rare’ seagulls