On 25 April 2019, Natural England is revoking three general licences for controlling 16 species of wild birds, following a challenge by a new environmental NGO, Wild Justice (see Natural England press release, General licences for bird control: major changes to licensing requirements, 23 April 2019 and Wild Justice: Projects).
General licences are standardised licences that allow anyone satisfying the eligibility criteria to carry out specified activities. The licences being revoked allow the killing or taking of certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage or disease, to preserve public health or public safety or to conserve wild birds or flora or fauna. The relevant bird species include some members of the crow family, some pigeons and several types of invasive non-native species (such as Canada goose).
Carrying out relevant activities after 25 April 2019 will be an offence, save in limited circumstances under section 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 or if the person has applied for an individual licence using a simplified process that will be available from that date. The change could particularly have a significant impact on farmers (for example, in their ability to control wood pigeon on crops).
The revocation is the first stage of a planned review of general and class licences, which will be completed later in 2019. Natural England indicates it is putting in place alternative measures to allow lawful control of these species to continue where necessary.