NRW withdraws plans to licence release of gamebirds next year
Natural Resources Wales has confirmed that it has withdrawn plans to regulate the release of game birds for the shooting season next year.
The announcement on Wednesday morning (September 20) was sent to stakeholders following a 12-week public consultation which raised concerns over potential environmental impacts from gambird releases, particularly to protected sites.
NRW said it was analysing and considering the response beginning with the proposal to add common pheasant and red-legged partridge to Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The correspondence from NRW to stakeholders said: “We will shortly be providing advice to Welsh Government and the Minister for Climate Change by 31 October 2023. We have provided copies of all the consultation responses to Welsh Government.
“If the Minister makes the decision to add common pheasant and red-legged partridge to the Schedule, we will need to put in place a licensing response. Considering the views of consultees is an important part of ensuring that any regulatory approach is workable, proportionate, and effective.
“Given the volume of consultation responses, we feel that having licensing in place in time for the 2024/5 shooting season is not achievable.
“We have decided, following discussions with Welsh Government, that, should licensing be required, it will not come into force until the 2025/6 season – a delay of 12 months from our original target.
“This revised timetable will allow us to properly consider the responses to the consultation and engage with stakeholders, as well as honouring our commitment to give shoots in Wales sufficient time to prepare for any changes.”
It is now unclear whether the licencing plans will come into effect, with NRW stating that it has discussed with Welsh Government ministers whether licencing will be required at all in the future.
Rural campaigning group, the Countryside Alliance, have welcomed today’s announcement having previously claimed that any scheme to regulate the release of gamebirds would pose “a threat to rural livelihoods” and biodiversity and could lead to a ban on game shooting.
Over 12,500 people signed a direct response to NRW, orchestrated by the Countryside Alliance, while shooting groups organised several public meetings to drum up opposition to the proposed scheme.
The value of shooting in Wales is worth some £75million to the economy and provides the equivalent of 2,400 full time jobs.
Alliance Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, said: “ We believe that vast bulk of those 42,000 cited responses came from the shooting community, who opposed the Welsh Government’s proposal to licence release which would have provided a vehicle for politicians to progressively restrict shooting”.
“ The overwhelming impression in rural communities is that this is just another episode of ‘Cardiff against the countryside’ and the Welsh Government has a particular prejudice against shooting.
“Shooting has huge environmental, social and economic benefits for rural communities and our advice to Ministers would be to drop the proposal completely or face a bitter fight with countryside”.
James Evans MS for Brecon and Radnorshire said: “Today’s news is a sigh of relief for rural communities across Wales and indeed within my own constituency of Brecon & Radnorshire. It’s a testament to the work organisations such as BASC and the Countryside Alliance and other individuals have been doing to protect our rural way of life and sustain an industry that is worth some £75million to the economy. Providing over 2,000 full time jobs, I have campaigned rigorously to see that the proposals for regulating the release of game birds is not introduced.
“Over 42,000 people responded to the Natural Resource Wales consultation on the issue, showing a strength of feeling in our rural communities. However, what’s been shown today is that common sense has prevailed. I hope that off the back of this news, Welsh Government and industry can work proactively together to ensure that any future regulation is workable and proportionate.”
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