Skip to main content

Natural England responds to new Chair claims

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Weekly stories

Natural England responds to new Chair claims

Several newspapers, including today’s Telegraph and Mail, have today inaccurately reported that the new Natural England Chair was responsible for the decision to review general licences for controlling birds.

Writing in a letter to the papers’ editors, Lord Blencathra, Natural England’s Deputy Chair, said the claims - including the suggestion that Tony Juniper was in any way associated with the legal challenge by Wild Justice - were ‘categorically wrong’.

He added:

“The decisions to review the licences, subsequent legal action and the corresponding decision to revoke the three general licences pre-date the start of Tony Juniper’s tenure and I was acting Chair.

“As Defra has made very clear, Tony’s appointment was made on merit, following an EFRA and EAC committees’ joint report into his suitability for the job.

“Given the legal challenge to the general licences came after the EFRA hearing, it is ridiculous to criticise him for not declaring it - as is the suggestion Tony is a self-declared eco warrior, wants a blanket halt on the use of all fertilizers and pesticides and is in cahoots with all the contacts he has made over 30 years of active public service.

“I regret needing to take time to respond to this absurd story. My priority now, along with all in Natural England, is to put back legally robust ways to allow landowners to continue to control wild birds where necessary. This is not a ban on control but a change to the licensing system – and the first steps are in place.”


Oak Processionary Moth

There have been alarmist reports in the Daily Mail, Daily Star, Sun and Independent that an outbreak of ‘toxic caterpillars’ is heading across the UK.

While the Oak Processionary Moth caterpillar– a pest native to southern Europe – was found in the UK in 2005, we have had no confirmed sightings in the UK this year. The reported sightings are likely to be the caterpillars of the native Brown Tail Moth which appear at this time of year. The hairs of these larvae can provoke an allergic reaction, so contact with them or their nests should be avoided.

A map on Forestry Commission’s website shows the area the pest is present, alongside detail on distinguishing OPM from other moths, and we encourage members of the public to report any sightings via the TreeAlert reporting tool or by phoning 0300 067 4442.

A Forestry Commission spokesperson said:

“We are working with local authorities and land managers to share best practice and to deliver a control programme of surveillance and treatment to tackle Oak Processionary Moth.

“The majority of the UK is a designated Protected Zone for this pest and we have recently strengthened import controls on oak trees to mitigate against further risks.”

Follow Defra on Twitter, and sign up for email alerts here.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by A Mitcheson posted on

    You have only posted one comment (mine), now 2 1/2 days late. Hardly an overwhelming degree of profanity screening? The subject heading, “Natural England Responds to New Chair Claims”, is now conveniently no longer leading. Defra’s intentions are therefore obvious. I completely understand if this is not your fault - it probably isn’t - and your just following orders from.... erm, above, shall we say.

  2. Comment by A Mitcheson posted on

    I have discovered that this media blog is clearly biased and manipulated towards Defra’s interests - the open forum image is false. I posted a response to the Tony Juniper appointment furore 2 days ago, when this was the leading item on the blog. My response has still not been posted, and now the title item has been dropped in to second position. If my response ever does got posted, it will of course now be far less likely to be read or generate further discussion. Nice dodge Defra Media...!!!
    I do insist that you post this by the way, no matter how long you end up delaying it.

    • Replies to A Mitcheson>

      Comment by abigailscott posted on

      We enable comments on our blog posts so that people can share their views however, to ensure no profanities are shared on the page these are not instantly uploaded. We recognise the strength of feeling on this issue and apologise for any delays to posts being published.

  3. Comment by A Mitcheson posted on

    I submitted a comment 2 days ago and it has not appeared. Could you please investigate. Many thanks.

  4. Comment by A Mitcheson posted on

    Natural England can spin this all day long, however there is simply no getting away from the absolute fact, that Juniper is strongly connected with at least one of the key protagonists, namely Mark Avery. Juniper's 'anti' tendencies, and his connections, are bound to bring influence to his new role, they just will, that's a simple fact of life. His appointment is therefore naturally very surprising. Whether he had former knowledge of this 'Wild Justice' manoeuvre or not, is hardly relevant, he was, and still is, too closely linked.

    Looking at the bigger picture, it has become patently obvious that NE are not an appropriate body to oversee any matters primarily concerned with farming. NE are now too heavily infiltrated by the 'bunny hugging' ecowarrior mentality - never has such an undeniable stark reality become so apparent. They are unfortunately far removed from any kind of pragmatic and wise form of countryside management. This is a huge disappointment to anyone with a grasp of the real countryside - as opposed to that which is given a rose tint on 'spring watch' for example or indeed the one imagined by Natural England's decision makers. Now, any form of licencing which even remotely resembles a red tape mess of bureaucratic nonsense - i.e. excessive hoop jumping - to simply shoot a few very common marauding birds, will be completely unacceptable to those engaged in countryside management.