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Farmers from Cheshire to Cornwall expressing interest in badger cull licences

Natural England has received applications and expressions of interest in badger cull licences from across England.
Farmers from across England have shown an interest in badger cull licences
Farmers from across England have shown an interest in badger cull licences

Natural England has received 29 applications or expressions of interest from across the country for a badger control licence, including 25 from the South West.

 

The agency is seeking public comment on the prospective areas but will not be revealing locations to protect farmers and contractors potentially involved.

 

A Natural England spokesman said 25 of the interested groups were located wholly or partly in four counties in the South West - Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset.

 

There has also been interest from Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.

 

These prospective areas range from 135sq.kmto 655sq.km km, with the average area being approximately 330sq.km.

 

Natural England is inviting the public to comment on the applications and expressions of interest, although it is not giving out further information about them, including details of location.

 

A spokesman for the agency said: "We had to find the balance between allowing the public to comment and the safety of individuals, businesses and properties that may or may not be involved in that proposed cull."

 

"It has been a difficult decision. We have taken advice from police and industry as well as taking into account experiences from previous cull areas.

Public safety

"We are trying to be as open as we can be but we also have an obligation for public safety."

 

In 2015, badger culling took place in Somerset and Gloucestershire for the third year and for the first time in Dorset.

 

In December Defra Secretary Liz Truss announced badger culling had been successful across the three areas and Defra would enable it to take place over a wider number of areas in 2016.

 

This was on the advice of Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens who said the culling results showed ’industry-led badger control can deliver the level of effectiveness required to be confident of achieving disease control benefits’.

 

Natural England is not specifying how many firm applications it has received from companies formed by farmers, as opposed to expressions of interests, which would be unlikely to translate into licences this year,

 

In reality, only in the region of five or six companies are likely to be in a position to gain new licences this year - a maximum of 10 new licences per year is permitted.

 

These could include groups of farmers in Devon, Cornwall and Herefordshire who had licence applications turned down last year.

 

The badger cull guidance for the licence holders has changed in response to concerns raised in the initial cull areas.

 

Changes include a reduction in the minimum cull area and an end to the six-week time limit for annual culls.

Commitment


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NFU President Meurig Raymond welcomed the interest shown by farmers, which he said showed their commitment to the policy.

 

“Natural England is now consulting with local people to get an understanding of any local concerns about the potential impact of culling operations," he said.

 

"The fact that so many areas have expressed an interest shows how widespread the bTB problem is and how urgently it needs to be dealt with.

 

"It also shows that farmers and landowners support the Government policy and are committed to playing their part in tackling this terrible disease.”

 

He added: “Only be using every option at our disposal will we stand a chance of controlling and eradicating this devastating disease and achieving what everybody wants – a TB free England.

 

"That is why it is important that the Government’s TB eradication strategy is implemented in full as soon as possible."

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