THIRSK and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake has said he is "dismayed and disappointed" that people can no longer freely kill bird species such as crows, woodpigeons and jays, after Natural England (NE) revoked the licence which allowed it.

The NE action was taken after the legality of the general licence was challenged by the environmental group, Wild Justice.

Mr Hollinrake said: “The three general licences that cover the control of 16 wild bird species were not lawful as Natural England did not have an appropriate assessment of need to underpin them, even though they have been using them for years.

"A court case due to be heard shortly, brought by environmental campaigners would have found against Natural England so it decided it had no choice but to revoke the licenses. It seems clear that there has been a failure at Natural England.

"They should have taken remedial steps far sooner so as not to end up in this situation now and there will need to be accountability for this at the appropriate time."

Mr Hollinrake said that the action is causing "considerable disruption" to "the agricultural community and rural economy".

He said: “On Tuesday I met with the Minister and the chief executive of Natural England with other MPs to express our frustration and to find an alternative solution.

"Natural England is an independent body charged by statute with promoting conservation. It has to accept the legal position in this instance, but nevertheless fully recognises that this action is deeply concerning to those planning to use these licences.”

Mr Hollinrake said that Natural England is working "as fast as it can" to undertake licensing assessments to enable the killing of certain bird species in defined situations.

Natural England now plans to introduce a legal system of licences to allow 16 species of birds, including rooks, magpies, Canada geese and non-native parakeets, to be killed.

In the meantime, he said that anyone wanting to kill these species must apply for an individual licence in the same way as they would if they were seeking to kill other more 'protected' bird species.

These licences should be issued from Monday, April 29.

He added that Natural England is creating a simplified “individual license/notification” system.

Mr Hollinrake said: “I understand that this would involve a landowner filling in an online form, with five minutes of various tick boxes, a brief explanation of what they want to control and why.

"I have impressed upon Natural England the importance of putting this all in a simple guide for farmers, gamekeepers, landowners."

The MP added he will do "everything he can" to make sure alternative arrangements are put in place to allow people to kill certain wild birds 

Wild Justice was set up by three conservationists in February 2019.

The challenge against general licenses - what it described as "the unlawful casual killing of tens of millions of birds" - was its first legal case.

In a statement the group said: "We haven’t changed the law, we have merely shown that the current system of licensing of killing of certain species of birds, developed and administered by a statutory wildlife agency, is unlawful now and presumably has been for decades."