Official in charge of general licences mess made new head of Natural England

The civil servant at the heart of Natural England’s disastrous handling of the 2019 general licences crisis is the new chief executive of Natural England. She will earn ‘circa £125,000 a year’ according to the job ad posted by employment agency Gatesby Sanderson.

In his statement making the appointment, environment secretary George Eustice refers to Spain’s “excellent work over the last year”.

However, wildlife managers across the UK are appalled that she has been rewarded with a tax-funded six-figure salary after the damage she did to farming and wildlife in 2019.


Part of the job ad from City of London headhunter Gatesby Sanderson


Spain was Natural England’s interim chief executive when she banned all pest bird control in the UK in April 2019. She caved in to lawyers from BBC TV presenter Chris Packham’s Wild Justice animal rights group.  At the time, Spain was nearly sacked for her mishandling of the crisis, which saw livestock and rare wild birds killed across the UK, with wildlife managers powerless to intervene.

Scrutiny from the Parliamentary EFRA (environment, food and rural affairs) committee revealed Spain

  • Had no idea what the general licences were for, and what damage their removal would do
  • Had no idea how many people were involved in pest control
  • Easily bowed to pressure from the animal rights lobby


Marian Spain fighting for her job in front of the EFRA committee


At the time, Spain was villified in the UK media, including articles in the Daily Mail, iNews, and the Independent.

Before she moved to Natural England, Spain was chief executive of Plant Life as well as holding roles with organisations in the environment sector, including the Environment Agency and Countryside Agency – a predecessor body of Natural England.

Animal rights activists welcome her appointment.

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