Recent Licence to kill 10 Buzzards

Dave Rawlins made this Freedom of Information request to Natural England

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Please answer the questions below which relate to the Natural England announcement on 29/7/2016 to permit the killing of 10 buzzards.
1) What evidence did the applicant supply of “serious damage to young pheasants”?
2) How was this evidence verified by Natural England?
3) How many pheasants has the applicant lost to buzzards, each year, over the last 5 years?
4) What is the estimated financial loss to the applicant due to predation, by buzzards, of his pheasants?
5) What are the time limitations applied to the licence?
6) Please list all the other “stringent conditions” applied to the licence, mentioned in the announcement.
7) Please cite the law under which this licence was granted.
8) Please cite the Natural England policy under which this licence was granted.
9) Please provide the “best available evidence”, other than that supplied by the applicant, that was available to Natural England when the decision to issue the licence was taken.
10) Who carried out the “rigorous assessment” mentioned in the announcement.
11) What was the methodology of the “rigorous assessment”, how long did it take and what was the conclusion?
12) Please describe all the other methods that had been tried by the applicant to control predation by buzzards over the 5-year period mentioned in the announcement.
13) Which years were included in the 5-year period?
14) What are the non-lethal measures stipulated by the licence, to be used in conjunction with killing the buzzards.
15) How are buzzards inside the pheasant pens to be killed?
16) What other methods of killing buzzards are permitted under the licence?
17) How many metres from the pheasant pens do the buzzards have to be to be considered to be inside the area “immediately around the animal pens”?
18) The announcement states that “ the conditions (of the licence) are designed to make the licensed activity … proportionate”. What criteria will Natural England apply to assess that killing 10 buzzards is a proportionate response to the loss of pheasants by buzzard predation. When will that assessment be reached?
19) The announcement states that “ the conditions (of the licence) are designed to make the licensed activity … effective”. What reduction in losses of pheasants to buzzards will Natural England apply to assess that killing 10 buzzards is an effective response to buzzard predation. When will that assessment be reached?
Many thanks.
Mr D. Rawlins

FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Rawlins

Access to information request – Acknowledgement – Request No RFI 3528

Thank you for your request for the information detailed in your email below, which we received on 3 August 2016. We are dealing with your request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

Your request is being considered and we will send out our response within the legal deadline of 20 working days which is 1 September 2016. If for any reason, we are unable to meet the deadline we will keep you fully informed of the reasons for this.

Yours sincerely

Enfys Jenkins, Paralegal
Natural England, Legal Services, Area 3A, Nobel House, London, SW1P 3JR

[email address]
www.gov.uk/natural-england

Natural England is accredited to the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence Standard

Natural England is here to conserve and enhance the natural environment, for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people and the economic prosperity that it brings.

The contents of this email and any attachments are confidential to the intended recipient. If you are not the intended recipient please do not use or publish its contents, contact Enfys Jenkins immediately then delete.

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FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Rawlins

With regards to your Access to Information request RFI 3528, I am writing to inform you that our response will be slightly delayed and will be sent you as soon as possible.

Sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.

Regards

Kate Donovan
Adviser - Access to Information
Legal Services

Natural England
Email: [Natural England request email]

Make a request for information to Natural England

We are here to secure a healthy environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England's traditional landscapes are safeguarded for future generations.

In an effort to reduce Natural England's carbon footprint, I will, wherever possible, avoid travelling to meetings and attend via audio, video or web conferencing.

Natural England is accredited to the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence

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Dear Kate Donovan,

Thank you for your email. However, I would appreciate clarification of the reasons why NE is unable to fulfil it's statutory duty of a "prompt" disclosure, and just how slight a "slight delay" might be.

Please note that, at no point in my request do I seek to identify the individual licensee, and none of the information that I sought could be used to identify the individual concerned. My request, therefore, does not breach the duty of fairness to the individual under the Data Protection Act 1998 and an exemption under Section 40(2)(b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) is not applicable in this case.

Yours sincerely,

Dave Rawlins

FOI (NE), Natural England

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Rawlins

Please find attached our response to your request for information considered under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. May I apologise for the delay in sending our response.

Regards

Sarah Waterfield
Lead Adviser - Access to Information
Legal Services

Natural England
Email: [Natural England request email]

Make a request for information to Natural England

We are here to secure a healthy environment for people to enjoy, where wildlife is protected and England's traditional landscapes are safeguarded for future generations.

In an effort to reduce Natural England's carbon footprint, I will, wherever possible, avoid travelling to meetings and attend via audio, video or web conferencing.

Natural England is accredited to the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence Standard

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Dear FOI (NE),
Thank you for your response. However some of my questions remain unanswered eg. No 3 "Speak to Julie ", and in some cases I have asked for an internal review of the answers. Because some of your answers refer to other documents I will be seeking further clarification in due course.

1. What evidence did the applicant supply of “serious damage to young pheasants”?
This information is provided within the Technical Assessment which can be located in the link given above.

I will seek clarification that I have received all evidence when I have fully read the Technical Assessment.

2. How was this evidence verified by Natural England?
This information is provided within the Technical Assessment which can be located in the link given above.

I will seek clarification that I have received all the steps taken by NE when I have fully read the Technical Assessment.

3. How many pheasants has the applicant lost to buzzards, each year, over the last 5 years?
Speak to Julie

I do not understand this answer. The Technical Assessment only provides percentage bag returns for 2015/16. The raw figures are redacted. The method of calculating percentage bag returns is not clear. I consider this question unanswered.

4. What is the estimated financial loss to the applicant due to predation, by buzzards, of his pheasants?
This information is considered to be personal information by Natural England and has been withheld under Regulation 12(3). Our reasoning for this is given above.

This information may be personal information but, since it cannot be used to identify the applicant, and the applicant is anonymous, it does not breach the duty of “fairness” to the individual under the Data Protection Act 1998. The information is therefore not required to be withheld under Regulation 12(3). The public interest for disclosure is that it is required to assess whether the actions licensed are Proportionate. I request a review of this decision.

5. What are the time limitations applied to the licence?
The licence is in force for seven weeks in 2016.

Thank you. Would it be possible to have the start and end dates?

6. Please list all the other “stringent conditions” applied to the licence, mentioned in the announcement.
This information is provided within the Licence which can be located in the link given above

I will seek clarification that I have understood all the conditions when I have fully read the Licence.

7. Please cite the law under which this licence was granted.
Natural England has a statutory duty to assess and issue wildlife licences within the legal framework of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA)

Thank you.

8. Please cite the Natural England policy under which this licence was granted.
This information is provided within the Internal Guidance Note which can be located in the link given above

I will seek clarification that I have understood the policywhen I have fully read the Internal Guidance Note.

9. Please provide the “best available evidence”, other than that supplied by the applicant, that was available to Natural England when the decision to issue the licence was taken.
This information is provided within the Technical Assessment which can be located in the link given above

I will seek clarification that I have received all the evidence used by NE when I have fully read the Technical Assessment.

10. Who carried out the “rigorous assessment” mentioned in the announcement.
This information is considered to be personal information by Natural England and has been withheld under Regulation 12(3). Our reasoning for this is given above.

It was not my intention to identify an individual with this question. Please confirm that the assessment was carried out by “an NE assessment panel” or a “technical advisor employed by NE”, “an independent vet contracted to NE” etc.

11. What was the methodology of the “rigorous assessment”, how long did it take and what was the conclusion?
This information is provided within the Licencing Summary and Technical Assessment which can be located in the link given above.

Thank you. I will seek clarification that I have understood the methodology used by NE when I have fully read the documents.

12. Please describe all the other methods that had been tried by the applicant to control predation by buzzards over the 5-year period mentioned in the announcement application. Which years were included in the 5-year period?
Speak to Julie

I do not understand this answer. I consider this question unanswered.

13. What are the non-lethal measures stipulated by the licence, to be used in conjunction with killing the buzzards.
This information is provided within the Licence which can be located in the link given above

Thank you. I will seek clarification that I have understood the non-lethal measures when I have fully read the licence.

14. How are buzzards inside the pheasant pens to be killed?
The licence permits up to ten buzzards to be shot.

I do not understand this answer. Please confirm that the buzzards are permitted to be shot, with a shotgun, whilst they are inside pheasant pens regardless of the presence of pheasants.

15. What other methods of killing buzzards are permitted under the licence?
None and this is explained in the Licence.

Thank you.
16. How many metres from the pheasant pens do the buzzards have to be to be considered to be inside the area “immediately around the animal pens”?
There is no defined measurement of “immediately around he animal pens”. Lethal control by shooting may only be undertaken within or immediately adjacent to the four pens/woods listed on this licence and only where all conditions of this licence can be met.

Thank you. Can you confirm that the licence extends to the perimeter of the woods within which the pens are situated and their immediate vicinity?

17. The announcement states that “the conditions (of the licence) are designed to make the licensed activity … proportionate”. What criteria will Natural England apply to assess that killing 10 buzzards is a proportionate response to the loss of pheasants by buzzard predation. When will that assessment be reached?
This is the first licence that Natural England has issued for the lethal control of raptors to prevent serious damage to pheasant poults. The application has been assessed against the four principles in our Internal Guidance in order to decide if this licence will be effective and proportionate in resolving the issue. If the applicant seeks any similar future licences we would expect the applicants shooting returns for the 2016/17 season to show that this licence had been effective and proportionate in preventing serious damage.

I consider the sentence “This is the first licence that Natural England has issued for the lethal control of raptors to prevent serious damage to pheasant poults.” to be disingenuous since NE granted a licence in 2013 permitting the destruction of up to two buzzard nests (and eggs), across two release sites, to prevent serious damage to pheasant poults.

Please state what increase in shooting returns for the 2016/17 season will be accepted by NE so as to define any actions undertaken under the licence as “proportionate”.

Is this the only criterion for proportionality that NE intends to use?

When will NE have the shooting returns for the 2016/17 season in order to assess the proportionality of the actions undertaken under the licence.

I consider this question unanswered and request a review.

18. The announcement states that “ the conditions (of the licence) are designed to make the licensed activity … effective”. What reduction in losses of pheasants to buzzards will Natural England apply to assess that killing 10 buzzards is an effective response to buzzard predation. When will that assessment be reached?
This is the first licence that Natural England has issued for the lethal control of raptors to prevent serious damage to pheasant poults. The application has been assessed against the four principles in our Internal Guidance in order to decide if this licence will be effective and proportionate in resolving the issue. If the applicant seeks any similar future licences we would expect the applicants shooting returns for the 2016/17 season to show that this licence had been effective and proportionate in preventing serious damage.
This answer draws no distinction between the effectiveness and the proportionality of any actions undertaken under the licence. I therefore consider this question unanswered and request a review.

Yours sincerely,

Dave Rawlins

Dear Sarah Waterfield,

Thank you for your response, of 07 September 2016, to Request No RFI 3528.

Your answer to my question;

1. What evidence did the applicant supply of “serious damage to young pheasants”?
was particularly unhelpful and referred me to the Technical Assessment. I have now read through the Technical Assessment, and the Licence Application, and extracted such evidence supplied by the applicant. Will you now, please, review the “evidence” below and confirm that this was all the evidence submitted by the applicant.
The Technical Assessment, and the Licence Application, both make it clear that there has been considerable interaction between NE and the applicant over the years. Both refer to the declining bag returns supplied to NE in previous years. Please provide the figures to me as they were considered to be supporting this application.
Where the nature of the evidence is not clear, please provide clarification.
Best regards,
Dave Rawlins.

Evidence given by the applicant that buzzards were causing “serious damage” to his/her livestock taken from the Technical Assessment written 18/July/2016.
a) The low percentage of birds shot (26 – 41%) based on the number of poults placed in each pen on 1/9/2015 and the bag returns for the 2015/16 season
b) The claim of the applicant, to the Wildlife Advisor responsible for the T.A., that “wild raptors” were responsible for having a significant impact, via predation, on (his/her) ability to produce the necessary numbers of pheasants for shooting.
c) The anecdotal assertion that when one of a pair of buzzards was accidentally killed on the road “a few years ago” the level of predation “in that vicinity” did “drop off” by an, undocumented, amount.
d) Undisclosed information of “extensive evidence” provided by the applicant “in previous years” in support of unsuccessful licence applications, the last of which was submitted on 17/7/2015. This is referred to in the Licence Application as the declining bag returns. Please provide them.
e) The provision, to the Wildlife Advisor responsible for the T.A., of a series of photographs, taken by the applicant, of predated poults, purporting to have been killed by buzzards in the 2015/16 season.
f) The provision, to the Wildlife Advisor responsible for the T.A., of observations on the locations and behaviour of buzzards (and sparrow hawks) in the 2015/16 season. Who made the observations, and the format in which they were shown to the Wildlife Advisor, is not clear from the T.A. Please clarify.
g) “Direct observation of hunting buzzards.” (By the Wildlife Advisor responsible for the T.A.? During the site visit? Were they hunting pheasant poults?) Please clarify.
h) A verbal explanation, to the Wildlife Advisor responsible for the T.A., by the applicant that “costs had stayed the same as during the 2015/16 season.
i) NB. At the time of the site visit, 5/July/2016, the applicant was unable to give an estimate of the number of buzzards, or nests, in “the area” “due to “a lack of time to do so”.
Evidence given by the applicant that buzzards were causing “serious damage” to his/her livestock taken from the Licence Application written 25/May/2016.
j) The, unsubstantiated, assertion that “(redacted) buzzards and sparrow hawks have increasingly caused serious damage to my (redacted) by predating on pheasant poults in and around my release pens”. This is the same “evidence” as b) above.
k) The statement that “NE has full details of declining bag returns”. This is the same “evidence” as d) above.
l) The statement “I ran these two shoots last year (redacted) and the combined return rate was 30%, which is below the rate at which these shoots are viable. This is essentially the same evidence as a) above.
m) The statement “Buzzards (….and sparrow hawks both …) did serious damage at all the release sites by direct kills, driving poults away from the pens, and stressing the birds …..”. This statement is essentially the same as j) above.
n) The statement “ [the poults] ….. suffered from coccidiosis last year, a disease attributed by my vet to stress.” No evidence of faecal oocysts/g, number of deaths, treatment etc. The context makes it clear that the applicant considers that the stress was caused by raptors

FOI (NE), Natural England

Thank you for your email.

 

The Access to Information Team are out of the office until Wednesday 28 
September. If you have an urgent enquiry please email
[email address] or phone 0300 060 3900, otherwise we will
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Thank you

Access to Information Team

FOI (NE), Natural England

Dear Mr Rawlins

Internal Review – Acknowledgement – Request No RFI 3528

Under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 you have a right to have our decision reconsidered if you express dissatisfaction about what information was provided. This is done by way of an internal review.

As a result of your email below I will ask a colleague to conduct an internal review.

This review will be undertaken as quickly as possible and within the legal deadline of 40 working days which is 18 November 2016.

If you have any queries about this email please contact me.

Yours sincerely

Enfys Jenkins, Paralegal
Natural England, Legal Services, Area 3A,
Nobel House, London, SW1P 3JR

[email address]
www.gov.uk/natural-england

Natural England is accredited to the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence Standard

Natural England is here to conserve and enhance the natural environment, for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people and the economic prosperity that it brings.

The contents of this email and any attachments are confidential to the intended recipient. If you are not the intended recipient please do not use or publish its contents, contact Enfys Jenkins immediately then delete.

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Dear Mr Jenkins,
Thank you for your letter of 28 September indicating that you are commencing an internal review of Request No RFI 3528 with a commencement date of 23 September. The original response, of 7 September, was a disgrace, with answers such as "Speak to Julie" looking as if they had been copied and pasted from an internal document. Other answers such as "This information is provided within the Technical Assessment which can be located in the link given above" do not answer the question asked and often the answer is not in the document.

Your answer to my Question 5. What are the time limitations applied to the licence? "The licence is in force for seven weeks in 2016." is not the same as the answer given to the same question given to Countryfile Magazine, and published on 11th August 2016,which was "The licence is valid from 1 August 2016 to 31 October 2016". I make that 13 weeks. Please could I have a definitive answer and a reason for the discrepancy between the two answers.

Your answer to my question 4. What is the estimated financial loss to the applicant due to predation, by buzzards, of his pheasants? "This information is considered to be personal information by Natural England and has been withheld under Regulation 12(3)", is formulaic and ridiculous. The exemption from disclosure of "personal information" arises from the requirement to treat "fairly and lawfully" with a data subject under the Data Protection Act 1998. Since NE has been careful to redact all information that could identify the applicant, he is totally anonymous. Releasing the information cannot therefore treat the individual unfairly and classifying the information as personal, and then withholding it, is contrary to three of the examples of factors in favour of disclosure given in The Public Interest Test in " Natural England Standard Access to information - responding to requests for information".

Please note that, when estimating the financial loss to the applicant due to predation by buzzards, only an estimated 45% of Pheasants released will be shot in the first season after release (Tapper 1992). If Natural England deviate from this figure in their calculation of financial loss please explain why.

Please make sure that your colleague conducting the review has this letter to hand as he does so.

I look forward to receiving sensible and full answers, with no further clarification required, on or before 18 November 2016.

Yours sincerely,

Dave Rawlins

Dear Mr Jenkins,

With just one week to go I just wanted to let you know that, despite the lack of acknowledgment to my last letter, I am still anticipating full and clear answers to my questions on the 18th.

Yours sincerely,

Dave Rawlins

FOI (NE), Natural England

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Rawlins,

Please find attached our response to your Internal Review for request reference RFI 3528

Juliet

Juliet Melvin-Sparks
Team Leader
Finance and Performance Team
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