BRIDGWATER’S MP has welcomed Defra's issuing of a new set of general licences for controlling wild birds.

Three new types of licence have been approved by Environment Secretary Michael Gove after the former system was suspended in April. They came into effect from Friday. June 14.

The removal of the previous licences followed a legal challenge by the pressure group Wild Justice, spearheaded by wildlife presenter Chris Packham.

But Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said their scrapping at a crucial time of year caused fury among farmers who were 'left powerless' to stop birds feeding on emerging crops or attacks by crows on lambs.

Farmers’ leaders say crop damage, particularly to spring-sown barley, will have significant impacts on yield this year.

The original suspension was ordered by Natural England, now headed by former wildlife activist Tony Juniper, but within days Defra had taken back responsibility for the issue.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has now detailed the new types of licence. One will allow the control of indigenous corvids such as jackdaws, crows and rooks in the interests of conservation but also covers introduced exotic species including parakeets which may be displacing native breeds.

Another permits control of species such as pigeons where they are deemed to be a risk to public health and third licence covers the shooting of a raft of species to prevent crop damage.

But the licences will not apply to conservation areas and will prohibit shooting on land within 300 metres of them. That is certain to upset the game shooting lobby which says there is evidence to show predator control and gamekeeping on protected sites have helped conserve rare bird species whose numbers are in decline elsewhere.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said: "The department received more than 4,000 responses after calling for views and suggestions on the way forward so this has been no simple exercise.

“The proposals re-establish quite clearly the fundamental principle that nuisance species need to be controlled by shooting and I hope will result in a regime that is acceptable to all sides.

“I am aware commercial shoots still have concerns over the restrictions they could face on pest control in protected areas but there are clearly further conversations to be had."