Natural England - Licences

Licences

A wildlife licence gives a person permission to carry out an activity affecting an animal or plant that would otherwise be illegal. Licences are only issued for certain purposes, which are set down in the law, and only where there is a valid justification.

On this page:

Who needs a licence?

A licence is required by anyone who wishes to carry out an activity prohibited under wildlife legislation. For example:

  • to kill or take certain protected species to prevent problems
  • to carry out surveys or conservation work
  • to disturb or damage the habitat of certain strictly protected species
  • to possess or keep certain wildlife.

If your activity is not covered by a General licence or Class licence you need to apply for an Individual tailored licence (see 'types of licence' below).

What types of licences are there?

  1. General – a set of standardised licences that anyone who satisfies the eligibility criteria may use. They reduce bureaucracy by allowing people to carry out activities that affect protected species without the need to apply for a personal licence. You DO NOT need to apply for these licences, but you must ensure you abide by their conditions. 
  2. Class – these represent a ‘middle way’ between General Licences and Individual Licences. You DO NOT need to apply for these, except for a limited number of cases, but you DO need to register for them.
  3. Individual – tailored licences which you DO need to apply for and which are judged on a case by case basis.

How to apply

You may apply for an individual licence or register to use a class licence via our online application system or by post using the appropriate paper form.

For some licensed activities (e.g. surveys, certain research activities or implementing mitigation works in relation to developments), you may be required to provide information or references demonstrating your technical expertise.

The information you need to submit is the same whether you apply online or by post and the relevant application forms (available at the links below) will explain what you need to provide.

We are encouraging all customers to apply online and you will be able to register as a customer, submit an application and provide any subsequent return information about the use of any licence granted to you through the online system.

For further information, see our online application system page.

How long does it take?

We will aim to provide a licence or refusal (including an explanation) within 30 working days. In certain emergency situations, we issue licences more quickly. You may not assume that consent has been granted if you do not receive a response within 30 working days. Most licences and general advice are provided free of charge. The relevant application form will give full guidance. (see how to apply above)

How much does it cost?

Natural England has introduced a new chargeable pre-submission screening service offering an enhanced level of advice for European Protected Species mitigation licensing.

All other advice and guidance in relation to species licensing and licences are presently provided free of charge.

How to renew an existing licence

All licences are time-limited and generally require a report of activities completed. If you are unable to complete an activity before a licence expires you should contact us as soon as possible to renew or extend your licence.

Please note: extensions cannot be issued once a licence expires and a new licence will need to be issued. To avoid any delays that reissuing may cause please ensure that you request any extension or licence modification before the licence expires.

If you need renew a licence for an ongoing activity (e.g. to manage a problem species) then you can request a renewal when you submit your report of action taken under licence. Repeat licences are issued at the time of year they will be required so you may not receive your renewed licence within the 30-day timeframe set out above.

Important notes:

  1. You may not assume that consent has been granted if you do not receive a response within 30 working days. This is because wildlife licences permit activities that are ordinarily unlawful and which can only be permitted if certain legal tests aimed at protecting the environment and the welfare of wild animals are satisfied. If you proceed without a licence then you may commit an offence. Please note that most wildlife offences carry a maximum penalty of £5000 and / or 6 months in prison.

  2. If any information required to assess your application is missing or incorrect then the ‘clock’ will be stopped while we will contact you to obtain the information.

  3. Where it is not appropriate to issue a licence for the activity requested then we will write to you to explain this.

  4. In certain situations, for example emergences, we can issue licences more quickly. If timing is an issue for any reason, please contact Customer Services Wildlife Licensing for advice.

Further information

Contact us