The Forestry Commission is the Government Department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It protects Britain's forests and encourages good forestry practice by setting standards, giving advice, providing information and by offering grants for expanding, regenerating and managing forests and woodlands. It also controls the felling of trees and issues felling licences.
You normally need to get permission from the Forestry Commission to fell growing trees. They give this with a felling licence or with approval under a Dedication Scheme. In certain circumstances, you may also need permission from other organisations, such as your Local Authority, for any proposed felling. This sometimes applies even if you do not need a Felling Licence.
Everyone involved in the felling of trees, whether doing the work or by engaging others,eg. the owner, agent, timber merchant or contractor, must ensure that a felling licence or approval under a Dedication Scheme has been issued before any felling is carried out, or that one of the exemptions apply. They must also ensure that the work is carried out in accordance with the terms of a Forestry Commission permission.
If there is no licence or other valid permission, or if the wrong trees are felled, anyone involved can be prosecuted. Do not begin felling until a licence or other permission has been issued or granted. Any felling carried out without either a licence or other permission is an offence, unless it is covered by an exemption.
In any calendar quarter you may fell up to 5 cubic metres on your property without a licence, as long as no more than two cubic metres are sold. Contact your local Forestry Commission office if you are not certain whether these exemptions apply.
Certain types of felling do not need permission from the Forestry Commission. The Forestry Act 1967, as amended, and related regulations gives these exceptions in full. The main categories are:
1. Lopping and topping (which usually includes tree surgery, pruning and pollarding)
2. Felling included in an approved Dedication plan
3. Felling fruit trees, or trees growing in a garden, orchard, churchyard or designated public open space (eg. under the Commons Act 1899)
4. Felling trees which, when measured at a height of 1.3 metres from the ground:
- have a diameter 8 centimetres or less;
- or, if thinnings, have a diameter of 10 centimetres or less;
- or, if coppice, (ie. managed by cutting to promote multi-stemmed growth arising at or near ground level) or underwood, have a diameter of 15 centimetres or less
5. Felling trees immediately required for the purpose of carrying out development authorised by planning permission (granted under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) or for work carried out by certain providers of gas, electricity and water services and which is essential for the provision of these services
6. Felling necessary for the prevention of danger or the prevention or abatement of a nuisance (eg. which may involve threat of danger to a third party). This exemption will only apply if there is a real rather than a perceived danger. Advice may be available that would minimise the danger without felling the trees. The Forestry Commission strongly recommend that you contact them if you are considering felling a tree or trees in these circumstances. You may be prosecuted for illegal felling if itis shown that the tree did not present a real or immediate danger
7. Felling necessary to prevent the spread of a quarantine pest or disease and done in accordance with a notice served by a Forestry Commission Plant Health Officer
8. The felling is done in compliance with any obligation imposed by or under an Act of Parliament
Applying for a licence
You can apply for a licence if you own the land on which the trees are growing, or if you,are a tenant and your lease entitles you to fell the trees. An agent acting for the owner or, tenant may apply to fell the trees, but the licence will be issued in the name of the owner,or the lessee of the land.
You can get an application form from the Forestry Commission website - www.forestry.gov.uk
There are notes on the form to help you fill it in. You must also send two signed copies of a map of the area showing the location of the trees you wish to fell.
The standard of map required is an Ordnance Survey Master Map® (OSMM). In England and Wales, you can get free copies of an OSMM by completing the form available from www.forestry.gov.uk or the Conservancy Office.
Renewal of a licence
A licence carries an expiry date and will usually be valid for two, three, four or five years.
The expiry date will vary from case to case, depending on the circumstances. If your licence ends before you have done all the felling, you must stop felling when the licence expires.
You must apply for, and be issued with, a new licence before you can fell the rest of the trees.
When completing a felling licence application, you can indicate how long you would like to carry out the felling before the licence expires.
Penalties for felling without a licence
It is an offence to fell trees without having obtained a licence or other valid permission. This can mean, on conviction, a fine of up to £2,500 (level 4 on the standard scale) or twice the value of the trees, whichever is the higher.
In England and Wales, if the Forestry Commission are satisfied that the owner or tenant has committed an offence, they may serve a Restocking Notice to replant trees on the land concerned, or any other land as may be agreed.
In addition, they may also seek to prosecute the offender.
In Scotland, they may only issue the Restocking Notice if the owner or tenant is convicted of an illegal felling.
Companies, their employees and their sub contractors are subject to wide range of Health & Safety Legislation.
The following legislation applies to tree care and estate management issues:
- The Health & Safety at Work Act (HASWAT)
- Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations (Risk Assessment).
- COSHH Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.
- The Work at Height Regulations
- Countryside & Wildlfe Act
- Town & Country Planning Act
- First Aid at work Regulations
- PPE Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations.
- PUWER Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations.
- LOLER Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment Regulations
- Manual Handling Operations Regulations.
- RIDDOR Reporting of Injuries, Diseases & Dangerous Occurence Regulations.