Revealing more details of the 2019 Natural England licensing scandal (2)

We know that last year Natural England was shovelling licences out of the building authorising all and sundry to kill unlimited numbers of any of the species formerly listed on the general licences anywhere in the UK (see earlier blog today and links therein).

Is this because the applications described in detail and clearly the conservation problem that they were designed to solve?

Well, I posted one of the applications on Friday afternoon as a particularly poor example, and here it is again;

‘red listed birds, crops and trees’? This is allegedly a conservation licence so it is nothing to do with crops. Nor, is it at all likely to be anything to do with endangered species of tree.

‘the carrying spect eat chicks eggs and crops’ – eh? Is that it? Those words entitle you to have a licence allowing the unlimited killing of a whole range of species?

Here’s another example from Co Durham;

An interesting list of breeding species. Jack Snipe with eggs? That’s a first not just for Durham but for the UK. Scaup? Wow! And Goldeneye too! Did Natural England question any of this? Did they say ‘You’re taking the Mickey!’? It appears not as this licence was given.

Let us visit Cornwall where this application for a conservation licence was approved;

No indication of which species of ground nesting birds are involved, if any, but some (not totally convincing) information about crops. All you had to do last year to get a conservation licence from Natural England to kill an unlimited number of Carrion Crows anywhere in England was to write ‘distroying ground nests with eggs’.

Here’s a further example from Co. Durham;

Looks like a pretty good grouse moor to me. Which species does this applicant want to kill because of their vicious observed predation of ground nesting birds which the applicant has tried all non-lethal methods already and is only now, in desperation, reduced, as a last resort, to applying for a licence to kill? Let’s see;

Ah yes! The famous and well-documented (not!) nest predators of moorland birds, the Jay (a woodland bird), the Feral Pigeon and the Canada Goose. But thsi was good enough for our nature conservation regulator, Natural England!

In Dorset we see an application like this;

And the species responsible are?;

Ah yes, the Feral Pigeon the well-known predator of Hares, songbirds and gamebirds. The Rook?

This is a joke – a sick joke.

There is hardly an application that I have seen that wouldn’t make any birdwatcher snort with derision or at least raise an eyebrow. The justification for a killing licence, which has to be a last resort for a proven problem, is wafer thin.

Natural England is supposed to be evidence-led and on the side of nature. In fact, it is completely wrecked and out of control. More on this tomorrow when I’ve calmed down a bit. I am angry that my taxes are being wasted on an utterly hopeless regulator and that wildlife has no friend in Natural England. Natural England simply was not doing its job properly in spring 2019.


22 Replies to “Revealing more details of the 2019 Natural England licensing scandal (2)”

  1. Very well said Mark especially your last paragraph summarising the situation. I quite understand that you are very angry and so am I. Natural England have a lot of important questions to answer but I expect their arrogance will prevent them doing this.
    How can Juniper and Spain stay in their posts ? Surely they cannot continue to preside over this shambolic and extremely biased organisation. They are not representing the welfare of nature in the slightest. They must resign.

    1. I am gobsmacked! Though not at all surprised, this is very good work mark, shining a light on the incompetency of natural England and demonstrating that its completely unfit for purpose!

      I cannot see how the organisation can recover any credibility, but then perhaps that’s the point? Under this Government of thin talents, NE’s purpose is to bow down to those who believe they are right in controlling species which historically they ahve considered “vermin”, irrespective of whether there is any evidence that justifies this activity. Its a rural tradition to do this their “cultural heritage”.

  2. Notwithstanding the disgusting corruption of UnNatural England, remember that the simpletons who filled in these applications are running around our countryside with firearms!

    Worried? We bloody well should be!

  3. If these people were honest they’d just write ‘I just hate these things and like killing them, so here’s some vague reasons that I think you’ll accept’. It’s pathological.

    1. Or ‘my boss tells me to kill everything, so i have to or i lose my job’.
      I am not defending the gamekeepers but they are only the henchmen of the mafia.
      I even felt sorry for the one who couldn’t write. I he/she a victim.

      1. If you filled in an application for a job or Universal Credit to the same standard as these, do you think you get accepted? If these people are illiterate, how do they understand the law? How do they read the instructions on the shotgun box?

  4. Aren’t applications supposed to be coherent, evidence-based and in English? And as for the spelling and the grammar: If the applicants were privately educated, they ought to get their money back.

    There’s surely grounds for challenging the legal basis for issuing these.

  5. If these represent the standard of scrutiny that applications for conservation control licences receive, and from what you have indicated this would seem to be the case then this is a serious indictment of Natural England’s performance.

    We are in the habit of saying that Natural England is ‘no longer fit for purpose’ by which we mean that it has become a toothless and feeble protector of wildlife that far too often favours those who wish to exploit nature over the protection of that wildlife. I would not agree with them, but I can see that some might refute this and seek to justify some of Natural England’s decisions as being an attempt to balance the protection of wildlife with the economic development and consistent with the part of its legally defined purpose that includes “contributing in other ways to social and economic well-being through management of the natural environment.”

    The processing of these applications, however, shows that in this aspect of its work, at least, Natural England is literally not fit for purpose and indeed very far from it . A public licensing authority that approves large numbers of licence applications en masse without even querying such obvious and crass anomalies, omissions and basic failures to justify the need for the licence should be relieved of its authority. Imagine a local authority that was found to have issued licences to drinking establishments with such a lax approach to reviewing the applications – they would be crucified by the media and MPs alike!

    1. I spent a career in enforcement (primarily public and animal health). If applications were received in this condition, they would be sent back.

  6. The standard is so low that the top example didn’t even need to tick the species boxes in order to get the OK.
    Perhaps if they diverted all the work in fighting Wild Justice into actually doing their job, we might actually have an agency that works for nature and the environment.

  7. If ever further evidence was needed, these licences make it clear that NE are indeed batting for the dark side. I’ve thought it for a long time, but I know that many people point to the (rather few) excellent staff they have and their past efforts in order to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they are underfunded and overworked but doing their best.
    That’s just not true, and I don’t agree that NE was ‘simply not doing its job properly.’ This smells of deliberate mischief, and a purposeful effort to strike back against Avery et al., along the lines of, ‘So you think you can get one over on us, do you? We’ll see about that.’ I hope all this can be put before an appropriate judicial forum very soon. And I’d like to see Tony Juniper smirk his way out of this one.

  8. Do Leigh Day have any pertinent advice to offer regarding this extreme misuse of power by NE? Happy to chip in if needed.

  9. Wow.

    Just think of all the training and paperwork you have to go through to simply get a license to use a torch to look for great crest newts, or risk disturbing bats at a roost while surveying them.

    Get one thing wrong in a box or your reference hasn’t adequately described you experience and no license to survey this wildlife.

    And yet half arsed filling in of a form is all that required to kill all those species….


  10. When I was wardening on a RSPB reserve the Canada geese along with the crows were yearly dealt with. The geese because they were regarded as a trampling threat to the tern and gull colonies. My argument with the RSPB was that these birds are our best form of predator deterrent and it’s free. You start removing species such as the breeding carrion crow and another pair will take their territorial place pretty quickly.
    So, if geese make the list on trampling then also, horse, cow, and sheep should be on it, and if you want the top predator of anything at ground level then that is the humble pig.
    This stinks of old fashion-outdated prejudice against a group of species, I’ve written many times about balancing nature and how abysmal we are at trying achieve it, this farm has lots of song birds, warblers, and larks, and I’m sure the corvids get a fair share, but they in turn provide a ready meal for the goshawk and the buzzard.

  11. I think somebody should ask Mr Juniper if he is happy with the standard of scientific assessment being applied by his staff. He is accountable for this drivel.

    I would guess that the folk rubber stamping these applications are adminstrators rather than scientists. However they do have to make the assessments before they make the approval. Therefore they must have been issued desk guidance to help them make clear and consistent decisions. At least a flow chart.
    It probably says…open envelope, check for name and address, approve everything. But who knows….

  12. Mark,
    The information you have collected here is genuinely shocking. Where are you going to take it from here? Do you have the resources to challenge the grant of licenses which are legally flawed? Have you approached Natural England to discuss what seems to be a systemic failure in the way these licenses are being processed? And can you use your position along with the likes of Chris Packham to publicise this in the media?
    Best wishes,

  13. Oh my giddy aunt.

    And applications for protected species licensing are required to run to tens or even hundreds of pages, with copious drawings, plans and photos, be paid for, take weeks and weeks to process and then might come back with a complaint about a ‘critical’ omission such as ‘there’s no north-point on one of your OS plans’.

    Perhaps consultants and Wildlife Trusts should apply to shoot bats, great crested newts, water voles or dormice rather than capture them, move them out of harms way and try their best to provide alternative habitat for them. It would seem that NE have made shooting wildlife a much easier, less bureaucratic and swifter process than trying to protect it.

    I am quite sure there will be many NE staff reading your blog or tweets who will not have been aware of this, and who will yet again twist and cringe with embarassment at what their superiors and colleagues are up to.

    For NE, the good ship HMS Integrity is well and truly holed below the waterline, and breaking up as she lists. I think if I was one of the crew, I would rather speak up than go down with the ship.

  14. and very sadly, much of this comment could apply to the ‘new’ NS (old SNH) – and the issuing of licences resulting in killing of 87 Beavers in 2019 (1/5th of the estimated population of a European Protected Species) with almost no effort to follow the agreed mitigation hierarchy and investigate ‘all other solutions’ before granting a licence for ‘lethal control as a last resort’ . Substitute NS for NE in Mark’s last para: ‘NatureScot simply was not doing its job properly in 2019’. Our statutory agencies are letting down our ‘Nature’, wildlife, ecosystems, landscapes and people – and using our taxes to do it.

  15. Looks to me like the person doing the licences has just given everyone a licence and not queried anything. I also wonder if the person doing the licences have any knowledge of birds.

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