In 2017, Bioscan’s Dominic Woodfield was asked by a prospective litigant, Tom Langton, to look into the adequacy of Natural England’s assessment processes connected with granting licences to cull badgers across large areas of south-western England. His review exposed significant omissions and assessment failures by Natural England that provided grounds for legal challenge that were then taken forward by Mr Langton’s legal team, with witness evidence from Dominic in support.
In the face of these challenges Natural England repeatedly amended and corrected its procedures to prevent adverse judgments in the course of various High Court and Court of Appeal challenges through to 2021 (and ongoing). Assessment failures were subsequently exposed in Natural England’s approaches to assessing and mitigating impacts on Sites of Special Scientific Interest and in the application of the ‘duty to have regard to biodiversity’ to the Secretary of State’s functions. While none of Mr Langton’s challenges have resulted in outright victory, comprehensive improvements in the thoroughness of Natural England’s assessments and the increased restrictions on culling imposed by conditions on culling licences have undoubtedly improved the protection afforded to sensitive sites and species from collateral impacts associated with the cull.