Natural England: Buzzard licensing applications

Natural England recently issued a licence permitting the control of up to 10 buzzards to prevent serious damage to young pheasants. Natural England is currently considering 4 further applications for a licence to control buzzards to prevent damage to livestock.

Shamefull England

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 4 further applications for a licence to control buzzards to prevent damage to livestock. Overall, the number of applications for buzzard control licences is 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’ll 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:

  1. Licence application (PDF, 5.74MB, 11 pages )
  2. Technical assessment (PDF, 1.12MB, 11 pages )
  3. Summary of decision (PDF, 20KB, 2 pages )
  4. Licence cover letter (PDF, 20.3KB, 2 pages )
  5. Licence (PDF, 196KB, 5 pages )
  6. Lethal control Internal Guidance Note (PDF, 324KB, 8 pages )

Update 17 November

Natural England received a total of 6 applications to control buzzards to prevent serious damage to livestock during the summer and autumn of 2016.

Four of the applications resulted in licences being issued. The details of the further 3 licences are below.

The total number of buzzards licenced for control was for up to 26 buzzards. All licences have now expired and the total number of buzzards controlled was 11.

The other 2 applications were withdrawn by the applicants as they wished to further explore alternative methods to resolve the issues. This is a key licensing test that we apply to all applications.

As outlined above, all licence applications are 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 all the relevant criteria are met, Natural England is legally obliged to issue a licence.

8 September 2016

  1. Licence application (PDF, 3.4MB, 13 pages )
  2. Licence (PDF, 257KB, 5 pages )
  3. Technical assessment (PDF, 1.61MB, 13 pages )

26 September 2016

  1. Licence application (PDF, 5.42MB, 11 pages )
  2. Licence (PDF, 254KB, 6 pages )
  3. Technical assessment (PDF, 949KB, 11 pages )

29 September 2016

  1. Licence application (PDF, 2.32MB, 12 pages )
  2. Licence (PDF, 182KB, 6 pages )
  3. Technical assessment (PDF, 564KB, 14 pages )

4 comments to Natural England: Buzzard licensing applications

  • Albert Ross

    So what we need to know now is what steps, if any, do Natural England take to ensure the number of Buzzards shot complies with the number permitted in the licence? If they don’t do this then one must ask that they do so and check that proper records are being kept.
    Only then can progress or otherwise of the licensed measures of control be assessed.

  • Thorbjorn Odinsberg

    Yes the system needs to be vigorously policed to ensure licences are complied with. However in principle we should oppose such licences to kill a native predator, recently and in some areas still recovering from 2 centuries of persecution, to “protect” non-native game birds which are essentially being shot for fun. Just seems very wrong this and brood meddling of harriers is the slippery slope of a quota system for all native predators unless we are very alert.

    Editor’s Comment. Totally agree, but we doubt that this would ever happen. Enforcement would be labour intensive and cost millions.The real problem now as demonstrated at Westminster when the petition to ban drive grouse was supposed to be debated, it was a total whitewash with evidence submitted by many, including scientists, being disregarded by all the Tory MP’s. It is now crystal clear this Tory administration care more about protecting the sporting interests of many of their game shooting MP’s together with financial supporters who also shoot. The other issue we all now face resulting from the way the debate on 31st October was handled casting aside the interests of the hen harrier, the moorland gamekeeper has been given a green light to carry on killing protected raptors like the hen harrier, peregrine and goshawk on the moorlands they manage. We doubt that this position will now change any time soon.

  • Albert Ross

    Mr.Ed. WE have to live within what we have whether we like it or not. It is no good railing against an administration that was voted in by the majority of the country. You have to work within the system. Natural England are seemingly now bound by law to issue licenses so they do. However they are not bound by law to shrug and say ‘well that is it. What more can we do?’
    They must police what they have licenced and ensure the terms of issue are complied with. Any breaches to be used to refuse further licence to that individual. That is the law and that is what they must do. I cannot see that policing the Six (6) licences ‘being labour intensive and costing millions!’ as you put it. Surely the official who did the site visits when assessing the application is capable of a few follow ups?
    So why not ASK NE the question I posed and help them do their job? At worst it will let the licencees know they were being monitored and who knows? It may turn up reasons to refuse the application in the future.
    I don’t think NE want to issue licences and anything that helps them restrict applications has to be a good thing.

  • Alastair Henderson

    Albert has a very sound grasp of the issues surrounding NE’s issuing of these licences. I understand that 11 Common Buzzards were reported killed out of a licenced total in excess of twenty five [?] spread across four separate licences; three of which were reported having been issued subsequent to the first licence issued.
    There was also mention in NE’s technical assessments that [an unknown] number of Common Buzzards are killed illegally by the shooting industry year in year out – surely there are grounds to insist that this acknowledgement of illegal activity is now followed up by putting pressure on CA and BASC etc., to effectively police their own members.