Natural England has withdrawn the general licences under which farmers and food producers could lawfully control birds that commonly cause serious damage to (and in some cases totally decimate) crops, such as pigeons and crows. Natural England’s actions come with very little notice and there is a risk that landowners could be unwittingly breaking the law if they are not made aware of the changes. Natural England’s website indicates that it is working “at pace” to put in place new measures over the “next few weeks”.
It is a critical time for this season’s crops and the ramifications of Natural England’s decision for yields (if new measures are not swiftly adopted that permit landowners to control the species identified by the general licences) will not become apparent for some time. The NFU has submitted a response to the decision on behalf of its members, but environmental groups are hailing Natural England’s decision as a successful step in the right direction. Natural England has advised that individuals that need to take action in the interim period, whilst the situation is being resolved, should apply for an individual licence after today.
New information should be available, according to Natural England, from the week commencing 29 April. In the meantime, landowners are advised that it will be an offence to control pests as was previously permitted under general licence from midnight tonight until new measures are put in place.
For further information on this, or any other related matter, please contact author, Louisa Butcher, Associate for Mills & Reeve LLP, Tel: +(44)(0)1603 693453 (Ext 3453)