Defra has set out the details of a review into the way the release of gamebirds on protected sites is managed.
The review will look at areas including the number of gamebirds released and their impact on protected sites, the consenting process, and whether further safeguards could be provided to protect sites. There will be no immediate changes for owners or occupiers of land.
In response to a pre-action protocol letter from Wild Justice in July 2019, last September Defra accepted that in principle the annual release of non-native gamebirds on, or affecting, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) is capable of constituting a “plan or project” requiring appropriate assessment within the meaning of the Habitats Directive.
Whether they will do so in any given case will depend on whether they may have a significant effect on the specific SPA or SAC in question. This will depend in turn on the nature of the activities, the features and condition of the SPA or SAC, the distance from the SPA or SAC where the activities are carried out and the possible effects of the activities. While not accepting the argument that current laws do not provide for appropriate assessment in such cases, Defra committed to undertake a review to consider the legislative arrangements around the relevant activities and whether there are ways in which their effectiveness could be improved.
Defra will meet with interested stakeholders to give them the chance to input their views into this review. Once the review has concluded, Defra will consult with stakeholders on any substantive changes that are being recommended.