Defra wrote to GWCT yesterday afternoon (30th May 2023) about GL43 - the General Licence which permits the release and management of gamebirds on and near European Protected sites which expired at 8.30 am today (31st May 2023). The Team Leader in the General Licensing Team stated: ‘We will publish the new licence, along with supporting evidence and assessments, as soon as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. The current licence will be withdrawn from the gov.uk website at 8.30am tomorrow. You must not release common pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) or red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) into the wild within Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or within 500 metres of their boundaries, except under a licence. If you are planning to release these gamebirds on or near these sites in the near future, please contact Natural England via email@example.com regarding an individual licence.’
Dr Roger Draycott, Director of Advisory and commented ‘Essentially, what Defra are saying is that they have run out of time in publishing the new GL43. This is completely unacceptable and will leave a large number of game managers in limbo and this will potentially lead to widespread disruption across the sector, resulting in negative environmental, social and economic outcomes. We urge Defra to publish the new GL43 as a matter of urgency. In the meantime, we advise shoots to contact Natural England at the address above to apply for an individual licence if they plan to release game in these areas this summer, in case the new Defra GL43 is not published in a timely fashion.’ To check if your shoot is affected, the boundaries and buffer of SACs and SPAs can be found here: common pheasant and red-legged partridge releases map. Defra have failed to communicate effectively with the sector on this issue and we have many questions that have not been answered. We will continue to press Defra for answers and we will provide further details as soon as they are available.