General Licence update: Progress at last with 3 new General Licences issued by Defra

The three new general licences issued by Defra on June 14th seem fit for purpose, but there are conc

The three new general licences issued by Defra on June 14th seem fit for purpose, but there are concerns over the decision to exclude protected sites (Pic credit: Ian Preston - Credit: Archant

Three new General Licences have been issued by Defra covering the killing or taking of birds for conservation, public health/safety, and to prevent serious damage

Following a recent call for evidence of the range of impacts experienced by groups and individuals as a result of the revocation of the general licences, Defra has now released three new general licences which have, for the most part, been approved by our rural organisations; there are, however, still concerns over the approach to European designated sites (or "protected sites"), home to much of our most important wildlife, which are not covered by the new licences.

There were over 4,000 responses to the call for evidence, with crow attacks on lambs and ewes, predation of eggs and fledglings of birds of conservation concern, and public health issues caused by pigeons in urban areas being among the range of issues reported. Defra also sought the views of user groups on the usability of different potential licensing options.

The resulting three new general licences seek to protect wild birds whilst recognising the legitimate needs of people and other wildlife. The new licences will allow users to control certain species of wild birds in order to: conserve wild birds and flora or fauna (GL34); preserve public health or public safety (GL35); and prevent serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters (GL36).

The new licences will be valid until 29 February 2020. In the meantime, Defra will lead a review of the longer-term general licensing arrangements with the intention of launching an initial public consultation by the end of the summer, with further details to follow.

Responses from rural organisations

Liam Bell, NGO chairman, said: "Two cheers to Defra for sorting out most of the mess left after NE's licence revocations in April. We reserve our third cheer until they have also addressed the remaining issues in protected sites. The team-working between the shooting organisations has been great on this and a big reason for the turnarounds gained so far. We look forward to playing our part in finishing the job."

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Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: "Since Defra has taken back control of the licences we have seen significant progress and for most people managing most species the situation is now back as it was. The discussion does not, however, stop here, and we will seek to resolve the outstanding issues as part of the planned consultation later this year."

BASC chief executive Ian Bell said: "The organisations have worked extensively in the background with Defra and we are content that the new, additional general licences issued today will be fit for purpose in many areas but significant concerns remain around protected sites. We appreciate that it's not a perfect situation and there may still be some confusion; the organisations will continue to be on hand to steer our members through. The organisations have told Defra that we expect any gaps to be picked up by the consultation in the summer."


- For general guidance relating to the use of the new licences, visit:

- General licence GL34 (to kill or take for conservation purposes):

- General licence GL35 (to kill or take for public health or safety):

- General licence GL36 (to kill or take to prevent serious damage):

- To apply for an individual licence for circumstances not covered by the general licences (for example, the control of herring or black gulls):


The NGO has produced the following guidelines to help people get to grips with the new licences:

In most ways, the new Defra licences allow you to do everything you were allowed to do before April 2019, but they are detailed documents and you must read and follow their terms and conditions to remain within the law, so click on the links above to do so. Although in law you do not have to carry a copy of the licence with you when shooting or trapping, the NGO advises printing off and keeping any General Licence on which you intend to rely.

The three new licences, which are 'General' and therefore do not have to be applied for are:

* GL34: Licence to Kill or Take for Conservation Purposes: The landowner, occupier or anyone authorised by them, can use this licence to kill or take certain wild birds for the purpose of conserving other wild birds, flora and fauna

* GL35: Licence to Preserve Public Health and Safety: The landowner, occupier or anyone authorised by them, can use this licence to kill or take certain wild birds to preserve public health or safety.

* GL36: Licence to Kill or Take to Prevent Serious Damage: The landowner, occupier or anyone authorised by them, can use this licence to kill or take certain wild birds to prevent serious damage to crops, feedstuffs or livestock (including kept gamebirds).


Defra's new General Licences are very similar to the old licences that were in place for many years until NE revoked them suddenly in April, but there are some important differences.

1) You cannot use Defra's new General Licences in 'European protected sites' such as Special Protection Areas (SPA's), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC's) or RAMSAR wetland sites. To control pest birds in these sites you will need to hold an Individual Licence issued by Natural England. This is unsatisfactory but it may well be a temporary situation. Defra has pledged to work with the NGO and other bodies - and through a public consultation later this year - to find solutions but it is a complicated area of law and needs more time.

2) Collared Doves are no longer on the General Licences and are therefore fully protected. Defra say this is because insufficient evidence exists of problems caused by collared doves. The NGO disagrees and will be lobbying during the summer to try to get them reinstated.


The General Licences in Scotland and Wales were not revoked and remain in place, but discussions about them are underway. The NGO is urging that nothing should be changed but we will continue to keep our website and our members up to date with any developments should they occur.