Natural England are currently consulting on a proposal to introduce charges for wildlife licences.
Natural England states that it “want[s] to ensure this service offers value for money for licence applicants and the taxpayer and achieves good outcomes for wildlife.”
We work with our clients when they need a wildlife licence from Natural England, for example when planning to disturb or remove protected wildlife or damage protected habitats.
This will primarily affect licences we apply for under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
Natural England state that the proposal aims to:
- Improve the licensing service for customers by enabling investment in line with changes in customer demand
- Change the licensing service from wholly taxpayer-funded to a mixture of taxpayer-funded and service user-funded, in line with Treasury and Cabinet Office principles for the funding of regulatory activity.
- Charges will also include cost recovery for compliance monitoring. This will enable a consistent level of compliance checks to be sustained, which will improve conservation outcomes for wildlife.
Natural England are consulting on exemptions from charging where the application is in relation to health and safety, the prevention of serious damage to property or the spread of disease, householder development projects, conservation delivery projects and conservation research.
Natural England has powers to charge for licences under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.
Charging would begin in the second half of 2018 if approved.
I have responded to the consultation on behalf of our clients. I have long held the view that licences should be paid for, where the funds are ring fenced to ensure that they fund a better services (at times we have to wait for two months or more to receive a licence), fund production of literature and training for consultants to standardise the quality of applications across the industry and to fund compliance monitoring where appropriate.
In general, I support the introduction of charging. However, I strongly object to the exclusion of householder applications from the charges and the size of the charge (roughly £130 per survey licence and £700 per development related application).
I consider that a fairer approach would be to levy a smaller charge (£75 – £100) per application across all applicants, rather than hit developers with £700 per application. We work with many clients who are small builders and are managing single house renovation projects with small budgets, and this seems to unfairly hit them.
The consultation is now open and will close on Monday 5 February 2018.
If you have views on this subject, you may want to have your voice heard.