With another year gone so quickly, it is that time again to review the new General Licences. These have now been published for 2016 by the relevant regional agencies.

This year it has to be said that there are no significant changes which will affect our industry. However, one should be mindful in particular of the conditions that are in the main body of these licences. We should also take the time to remind ourselves of the facts before we engage in any bird control activities.

Although there are no major changes to the General Licences, the layout and wordage has changed slightly on the English Documents (Natural England) The Class Licence CL03 (for birds trapped in food premises – to preserve public health or public safety) features altered wording, with a change from ‘Authorised Persons’ to ‘Registered Persons’. The changes to this Class Licence also allow employees of registered organisations to allow for multiple food sites to be registered by a group as opposed to individual licence requests. Otherwise all other licences relevant to public health pest control remain the same.

For Scotland (Scottish Natural Heritage) visit: species-licensing/bird-licensing/general/. The licences contain no major changes compared with the previous licences. However, reference has been made to reporting measures, in that all actions should be reported back to Scottish Natural Heritage by 31st January 2017. This is a similar action already noted in the English and Welsh licences.

Users should also be prepared to look out for details of extensive discussion and consultation taking place during 2016, regarding bird licences. Following consultation, changes may be made following research regarding both trapping and predation issues.

Details are likely to be published in April 2016, which may have an effect on how the licences are written next year.

For Wales (Natural Resources Wales NRW) visit: This year, no major differences are evident when compared to previous licences. However, an additional condition has been added, which is to request a written report within 14 days of any licence activity of any birds killed.

Northern Ireland:
For Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Environment Agency) visit: You should be aware that the licences for Northern Ireland work on different dates to the rest of the UK. The three general licences are currently operational between 11th September 2015 and the 10th September 2016 unless previously revoked. That said, no differences are noted compared with the previous licences.

Republic of Ireland:
Wildlife Licencing Unit, National Parks and Wildlife Service visit: No differences are noted to previous licences. Here, a single licence covers the threat to public health, damage to crops or to livestock or damage to fauna, along with a separate licence to cover the threat to air safety. Both licences operate from 1st May 2015 to 30th April 2016 and you should be prepared to update this resource accordingly.

In any event do remember that these licences, although easily downloadable, do not give us the right as pest controllers to cull / administer lethal control to a pest species without appropriate justification. The first thought that should come to mind before any control action is considered should be ‘is there no other satisfactory alternative?’