Natural England - General licences

General licences

Summary of licences
General – a set of standardised licences. You do not need to apply for, but must ensure you abide by their conditions.
Class – mid-way between General Licences and Individual Licences. You do not need to apply for these (some exceptions) but you do need to register for them.
2014 Licences list: (26kb)pdf document 
Individual – tailored licences which you do need to apply for and which are judged on a case by case basis.

On this page:

What are General Licences and how do you use them?

General Licences are only used for activities that carry a low risk for the conservation or welfare of the protected species and where a personal licence would be routinely issued. General Licences reduce bureaucracy by allowing people to carry out activities that affect protected species. You do not need to apply for a General Licence.

If you plan to act under the authority of a General Licence, you must:

  • be satisfied that you are eligible to do so (eligibility is licence-specific and in most cases there is a condition preventing use of the licences by persons who are convicted of wildlife crimes after 01 January 2010)

  • act within the provisions of the relevant General Licence and therefore the law. This means that it is your responsibility to read the conditions of the licence to ensure that your situation is covered, and to comply with these conditions. However, you do not need to carry a paper copy of the relevant General Licence.

  • Some General Licences require annual reporting of actions carried out, the required forms can be downloaded below.

  • If there is no General Licence or Class Licence relevant to your situation, you will need to apply for an Individual Licence.

What activities do they cover?

General Licences valid from 1 January 2014

Please note that most General Licences are re-issued on 1 January each year. When licences are re-issued changes may be made to the terms and conditions or to the accompanying advice. You must read the latest version of any licence you intend to use before you use it for the first time each calendar year.

Please note: Natural England has not made any substantive changes to conditions of existing General Licences for 2014.

Natural England is proposing to undertake a public consultation on its General Licences in early 2014 and will make an announcement on its website when the consultation is launched. 

Management of species causing conflict with conservation or human interests

These licences allow species to be managed in certain specific circumstances where there is clear evidence that they are causing problems and non lethal methods have failed.

Prevention of damage or disease
General LicencesWho can use this?
To kill or take certain birds to prevent serious damage or disease WML-GL04: (187kb)pdf document (Species list and methods that can be used are included in the licence, example situation – serious crop damage by woodpigeon, non lethal methods have failed)Authorised persons (e.g. landowners/occupiers)
To kill or take certain birds to preserve public health or public safety WML-GL05: (150kb)pdf document (Species list and methods that can be used are included in the licence, example situation – feral pigeon fouling causing public health risk, non lethal methods have failed)Authorised persons (e.g. landowners/ occupiers)
Conserving flora & fauna
General LicencesWho can use this?
To kill or take certain birds to conserve flora & fauna WML-GL06: (150kb)pdf document (Species list and methods that can be used are included in the licence, example situation – to prevent significant adverse impacts on native species e.g. Lapwing by non-native species e.g. Canada Geese)Authorised persons (e.g. landowners/ occupiers)
To take birds' eggs WML-GL12: (156kb)pdf document (Removal of unsuccessful eggs from nest boxes at the end of the season to conserve birds)Authorised persons (e.g. landowners/ occupiers)
To kill, or take Ruddy Ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis), their nests or eggs WML-GL21: (193kb)pdf documentAuthorised persons (e.g. landowners/ occupiers)

Keep, trap and release licences for rehabilitation or research

These licences allow a range of activities in relation to rehabilitation or research. Including keeping without registration of Schedule 4 birds that are injured so they can be tended prior to release.

General LicencesWho can use this?
To keep certain wild birds for the purposes of rehabilitation WML-GL07: (133kb)pdf document (Schedule 4 birds)Authorised persons (e.g. RSPCA, RSPB)
To keep certain birds for the purposes of providing veterinary treatment WML-GL08: (127kb)pdf document (Schedule 4 birds)Veterinary surgeons and veterinary practitioners
To take eggs of Anas Platyrhynchos (Mallard Duck) WML-GL13: (113kb)pdf document (For incubation of eggs and release of birds that would not survive adverse weather)Authorised persons (e.g. landowners/ occupiers)
To release native bird species listed on Schedule 9 WML-GL22: (136kb)pdf document (Capercaillie, Barn Owl). Note this licence permits release both of rehabilitated birds and those trapped under Natural England licence e.g. for scientific purposesAnyone (see licence conditions)
For the trapping and marking of shrews WML-GL01: (132kb)pdf document (Trapping for scientific or educational purposes)Persons with appropriate trapping experience

Investigation of offences

These licenses allow authorised people to hold material that would otherwise be illegal while offences are investigated.

General LicencesWho can use this?
To keep certain birds, pending legal proceedings WML-GL09 (Schedule 4 birds): (128kb)pdf documentAuthorised organisations (e.g. Police) & those acting on their behalf
To retain blood and other tissue sample WML-GL10 (wild birds & wild animals): (115kb)pdf documentLaboratories and scientific institutions

Sale and exhibition

These licences allow the legal holding of protected animals, birds and eggs for a variety of reasons.

General LicencesWho can use this?
To permit the incubation of eggs and rearing of chicks of Schedule 4 birds WML-GL11: (117kb)pdf document (As birds cannot be ringed when very young this licence permits the keeping of unringed Schedule 4 bird chicks for 15 days after hatching.)Anyone (see licence conditions)
To permit the competitive showing of certain captive bred live wild birds WML-GL14: (218kb)pdf document (For ringed and unringed birds)Anyone (see licence conditions)
To permit the sale and exhibition of captive bred Mealy Redpoll WML-GL15: (152kb)pdf document (Note: these birds do not take standard rings) Anyone (see licence conditions)
To allow the keeping of certain birds in show cages for training purposes WML-GL16: (106kb)pdf document (Allows cages of dimensions smaller than detailed in the legislation to be used in specific circumstances for short periods)Anyone (see licence conditions)
To sell dead birds - WML-GL17: (170kb)pdf documentAnyone (see licence conditions)
To sell captive bred live wild birds - WML-GL18: (180kb)pdf document Anyone (see licence conditions)
To sell certain species of amphibian WML-GL19: (116kb)pdf document (Common frog, common toad, smooth newt, palmate newt)Anyone (see licence conditions)
To sell certain dead animals WML-GL20: (119kb)pdf document (red squirrel & pine marten)Anyone (see licence conditions)
To sell black-headed gull eggs for human consumption (where legally taken under a Natural England licence) WML-GL23: (153kb)pdf documentRetailers and restaurants

Possession of European Protected Species

These licenses allow legal possession of dead specimens for educational, scientific or disease purposes.

General LicencesWho can use this?
For possession of dead specimens by members of the Guild of Taxidermists WML-GL02: (129kb)pdf document  
Annex IV species list: (148kb)pdf document
Members of the Guild of Taxidermists
For people submitting bats to the VLA for Rabies testing WML-GL03: (109kb)pdf document Anyone (see conditions)

Public Consultation

Natural England last conducted a public consultation on its General Licences in 2009. 

General Licences outside England

Natural England does not have control over the licences issued by the devolved administrations elsewhere in the UK. However please see the following web links for information:

The Scottish Government - General Licencesexternal link

Welsh Assembly Government - General Licencesexternal link

Natural Resources Wales - General Licences - Birdsexternal link

Northern Ireland Environment Agency - General Licencesexternal link

Please note that General Licences issued elsewhere may differ in the conditions applied, as with Natural England’s licences it is essential that you read any licence before you carry out any action under it.