Thank you for contacting me about wildfowling.
I appreciate the frustrations you have expressed, and I would like to assure you that the Secretary of State is working closely with Natural England to ensure that these issues are sorted as quickly as possible.
In Spring 2019, following a legal challenge which led Natural England to revoke three general licences for the lethal control of wild birds, the then Secretary of State decided to take responsibility for granting the relevant general licences. Defra issued new interim general licences in June last year and launched a review to inform longer-term licensing arrangements. At the time, wild bird control on and near European sites had to be excluded from those interim licences and has since been regulated via individual licence by Natural England.
Regulations governing European sites require Ministers to take a precautionary approach to their protection. When Defra launched its interim general licences last year, this approach was taken, while ensuring lengthy delays to the launch of the licences were not incurred. Following feedback from those with an interest in shooting, all sites and surrounding 300m buffer were excluded from the general licence and were instead regulated through individual licence from Natural England.
I would like to stress, however, that the current situation is an interim position while Defra concludes its review, as part of which Ministers are working towards a general licence solution for European sites. Ministers have also commissioned an independent review of the evidence on buffer zones which will inform their approach in the new general licences.
I would like to reassure you that Natural England, Defra, my colleagues and I are all committed to achieving a general licensing regime for wild birds which is both robust and workable for users, ensuring that longer-term licensing arrangements are informed by the best available evidence.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.