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The Question of Consent
Dr Conor O’Gorman, BASC’s conservation officer


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The outcome of your wildfowling club’s consent application to manage shooting on protected areas will  depend on the information provided,  club relations with local decision makers and whether you have requested BASC’s  assistance.  Dr Conor O’Gorman, BASC’s conservation officer explains… 

In recent years, the grant of consents for wildfowling within nationally designated areas1 has become an area of major concern for those tasked on committee with negotiating their club’s upcoming applications.  Horror stories, myths and misinformation through the grapevine are rife!  A common question I am asked when approached for advice by BASC members is how decisions are made in the granting of consents.  The straight answer is that that a hassle-free and fair process resulting in the grant of consent can have a greater bearing on human behavioural dynamics than waterfowl population dynamics.  Consulting with BASC at the outset can help to improve your experience and the outcome of your application.  Indeed, we provide assistance with consent applications not only to affiliated wildfowling clubs, but to BASC members from all shooting disciplines.  There are over 4,000 SSSIs across England alone! 

First, a very generalised background2: killing animals within nationally designated sites usually requires a written permission to do so, granted as a ‘consent’ through your statutory conservation agency.  This relates to killing animals as one of a number of activities in a standard list of potentially damaging operations with regard to the conservation features for which the site is designated.  Therefore, wildfowling, taken as a method of killing animals, requires consent in sites designated for their importance for waterfowl.  Given that the majority of our estuaries are sites designated with waterfowl populations as a feature, most wildfowlers will have shot over an area that has a consent in place, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the club committee. 

The local office of the national statutory conservation agency is where your club’s application for consent is considered.  The information your club provides in its proposal (termed the ‘notice of consent’) is the information used to make a judgement on whether your shooting activity is deemed likely to damage the features of the designated site.  The task of assessing that ‘risk’ will usually fall to one individual in that office.   

The types of consents that are granted now, and that have been granted in the past vary greatly in wording and in the conditions placed on them.  In England, for example, during the tenure of the Nature Conservancy Council (now English Nature) in the 1980s, wildfowling clubs received straightforward consents to carry out wildfowling in SSSIs with no conditions and no expiry date.  In other words, as long as the club remained in existence to manage that wildfowling and as long as they remained tenants (and without intervention from the agencies), the consent remained valid.  There was an element of trust and pragmatism with regard to that approach and the interpretation of legislation.  Wildfowling was taking place prior to designation of a SSSI, so why should it be suddenly perceived as a problem after designation?  The duty of care was entrusted (without undue interference) to the wildfowling club, as the local experts in managing the waterfowl resource available to them.   

Things have changed however in that the statutory conservation agencies, and in particular English Nature, are reticent to issue consents in that way without some form of review period and certain conditions, the nature of which depend on the information given by the club in their application.  Not only have there been changes in national legislation relating to management of nationally designated areas, but European legislation, its transposition to local legislation and the interpretation of that legislation is also a factor.  Why? Because many of those nationally designated sites have over the last decade have been designated as sites of European importance (the Natura 2000 network).   

So, to cut an already long story short, contact BASC for advice and assistance if that dreaded word ‘Consent’ is tabled at a club meeting.  We are successfully assisting wildfowling clubs from all over the UK in their applications for consent, through our collective knowledge and our regular liason with the statutory conservation agencies.  No two situations are the same which is why comparison between the conditions of a consent granted to one club should not be taken as ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than another club’s consent.  BASC will ensure however that you are dealt with fairly and consistently during the process and that if conditions are placed on a consent that there is a valid reasoning for them.   

1Reference to nationally designated areas  in this article means Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) covering England, Wales and Scotland and Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) in Northern Ireland.


2This generalisation contains inconsistencies due to different approaches in each of the different countries in the UK, particularly in the case of Scotland, given that wildfowling is a public right on Crown Estate foreshore there. For detailed explanations of designations and consenting procedures please see:

England SSSI www.english-nature.org.uk/special/sssi/

Wales SSSI http://www.ccw.gov.uk/Images_Client/Reports/report%20final%207.pdf

Scotland SSSI www.snh.gov.uk/about/ab-pa01.asp

Northern Ireland ASSI www.ehsni.gov.uk/natural/designated/area_interest.shtml