MP Kevin Hollinrake has called for “fair” controls on the shooting of pest birds as soon as possible after receiving a “huge” volume of complaints about sudden licensing changes.
Farmers and landowners have reported cases of livestock being attacked and crops being damaged since a legal challenge saw Natural England revoke three general licences last month for the control of 16 species at just 36 hours’ notice.
Temporary licences have since been brought in but they stipulate that carrion crows, Canada geese and wood pigeons cannot be shot on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), or within 300m of their boundaries, an exemption which has severely affected pest control of some of Yorkshire’s moorland estates.
Thirsk and Malton MP Mr Hollinrake recently visited gamekeepers on the Bransdale Estate in the North York Moors where the grouse moor is a SSSI.
He said: “There are restrictions in place predominantly to protect waders or chicks of waders, but what these people who were carrying out control of predators in these areas were doing was protecting these species. It’s put people in a very difficult situation.”
Any disruption has consequences for rural incomes, he said.
“Farmers rely on production and gamekeepers rely on successful shoots for their livelihoods so if they are getting wood pigeons destroying their crops, rooks and crows damaging grouse chicks and new-born lambs having their eyes pecked out, then this is having a business impact as well.”
He expects a new licensing regime to be in place “very soon”.
“I certainly hope this month,” the MP and private secretary to Environment Secretary Michael Gove said.
Mr Hollinrake added: “The key thing is not just when – and it needs to be as soon as possible – it’s that when we do, the controls are fair for responsible landowners and gamekeepers to control these predators.”