Natural England is committed to being as open and transparent about its licensing decisions as it can be and the documents relating to that decision are published below. Certain information has to be withheld in accordance with our legal obligations under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
Where appropriate applications are made, Natural England issues wildlife licences to prevent damage to agriculture, livestock and fisheries. So far this year, we have received over 5,500 applications, covering a variety of species and purposes.
In deciding whether a licence should be granted, all applications have to be assessed in the same way against the evidence, relevant policy and guidance - and within the legal framework of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. When, and only when, all the relevant criteria are met, Natural England is legally obliged to issue a licence.
Specifically regarding the control of buzzards, the High Court recently considered the issues surrounding the granting of a licence in order to protect livestock - and gave clear legal direction on that decision making process. This includes the need to balance the protection of wild birds against the requirement to prevent serious damage to livestock and the need to adopt a consistent approach to the interpretation of policy. Natural England revised its guidance to take account of the High Court ruling and consulted stakeholders on the revised guidance at the time.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 defines livestock as any animal which is kept for the provision or improvement of shooting or fishing. The guidance says that where birds are either in pens or are significantly dependent on people they are classed as livestock.
Natural England is currently considering four further applications for a licence to control buzzards to prevent damage to livestock. This number is very much in keeping with recent previous years. Each application will be assessed within the framework described above. When a decision has been reached on all of the applications we will provide a further public update.
One further application has been withdrawn by the applicant as they wish to further explore alternative methods to resolve the issue. Full exploration of alternative methods is a key test in our consideration of licence applications.
We would not consider licensing any activity which would adversely affect the conservation status of a species. It is illegal to kill wild birds without a licence from Natural England and anyone who suspects a wildlife crime should report details to the Police.
Supporting documents for active buzzard licence: