Environmental management – guidance

Wildlife licences: when you need to apply

When you need a licence to carry out work that may affect wildlife and its habitat, the type of licence you need and how to apply.

You can be fined up to £5,000 and get up to 6 months in prison if you don’t have a licence when carrying out an activity that needs one.

You must normally be at least 18 to apply for a wildlife licence. However, you might be able to apply if you’re at least 16 and you have wildlife licensing qualifications or awards.

When you need a licence

You need a licence from Natural England if you plan to disturb or remove wildlife or damage habitats.

You’ll need a licence if your work is to:

  • prevent damage to agriculture, livestock, fisheries, property or archaeology
  • protect public health and safety eg demolishing an unsafe derelict building that hosts a bat roost
  • maintain or develop land eg converting farmland or a brownfield site to housing
  • prevent disease among species
  • keep or release species not native to England
  • sell, own, exhibit or transport protected species
  • survey for the presence of wildlife on your land for science or educational research or for conservation work

Most licences are free and last for a limited period. You’ll only need to pay if you get a licence for a business or an organisation.

Conditions of using licences

To use any licence you must:

  • follow the conditions written in each licence
  • submit records and annual reports if Natural England ask you to

Types of licence

General licences for low-risk work

You need a general licence for some types of work that have a low risk for the conservation or welfare of a protected species.

See the full list of species and activities that need a general licence.

You don’t need to apply for these licences but you must follow the conditions written on any licence you use.

Class licences

You need a class licence if you’re doing work that needs a specific skill or experience to avoid risk to the conservation or welfare of a protected species.

See the full list of species and activities that need a class licence.

You must check the licence conditions written on the licence you want to use to see if you’re eligible.

To use any of these licences you must register with Natural England. How you register, and how long it takes, depends on the licence. Registration usually takes about 15 days.

You may need to provide references or other documentation to support your application.

Individual licences

You must apply for an individual licence if you’re doing any activity that affects a protected species and isn’t covered by a general or class licence. This includes activities such as disturbing, trapping or handling protected species, or disturbing their habitats, eg by cleaning out a pond or building a housing development.

To find out if you need to apply for an individual licence, see the full list of licences for each species:

You also need an individual licence to release a species into the wild if it’s not a species usually found in Great Britain or is listed as an invasive species.

If your work affects European protected species you need to apply for a mitigation licence. See the list of species that need a mitigation licence. You’ll need to send additional information to support your application.

It usually takes 30 working days to get an individual licence.

Licences for businesses and organisations

You can get an organisational licence if your business regularly does work that’ll have a low and temporary impact on one or more protected species.

This means you won’t need to apply for a separate licence each time you do work that affects these species.

To get an organisational licence you’ll need to show you’ve consistently met the conditions of other types of wildlife licences in the past.

You can’t get this licence if:

  • your activity will have a medium or high impact on protected species
  • you’re doing a one-off activity like development

You can ask Natural England if you need an organisational licence before you apply. This advice is free.

To apply for this licence, complete the request form for an organisational licence (MS Word Document, 126KB) and send it to Natural England.

Natural England will contact you within 15 working days to:

  • tell you if your request is eligible
  • give a timetable of what happens next

You must pay Natural England for the time it takes to produce your organisational licence and this will be agreed in advance.

You’ll pay:

  • £110 per hour for this work
  • £110 per hour if you need to change your licence, eg if you want it to cover different types of work
  • £330 each time you renew your licence

If Natural England need to visit your site you’ll pay:

  • £110 per hour for travel time
  • travel costs at 45p per mile

If you’re doing conservation work, your organisational licence might be free. Natural England will tell you if this is the case.

Read Natural England's special terms for organisational licences (PDF, 15.9KB, 3 pages) and Natural England’s terms and conditions for paid-for services.

How to apply

You only need to apply for individual and organisational licences.

You can apply online or by post. You may find it quicker to apply by post if you only need one licence.

Apply online

Find out how to apply for licences online using Natural England’s case work management system.

If you’ve already registered with Natural England and have a Government Gateway account you can apply online.

Apply by post

Send your completed application and any documents to:

Natural England Wildlife Licensing
Natural England
First Floor
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol
BS1 6EB

Telephone: 0845 601 4523 Fax: 0845 601 3438

When you might need to provide more information

You’ll get a letter from Natural England asking you for more information if they think you haven’t provided enough information in your application.

You won’t get your licence unless you provide the information they need.

Your application will be closed if you don’t provide the information needed within 6 months.

When to contact Natural England

Replace your licence documents

You can get your licence replaced if you lose it. Contact:

Replacement licences are free.

Extend your licence

You can sometimes apply for an extension to your licence if you’re unable to complete an activity before a licence expires.

Contact Natural England as soon as possible at:

Renew your licence

You must apply for a new licence if your licence has expired.