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Farmers are being urged to check if they need a felling licence before carrying out any hedging work on their land to avoid falling foul of the law.
Forestry Commission Wales issued the call as landowners begin renovating hedgerows as part of their agreement under Welsh Government agri-environmental grant schemes, notably Tir Gofal.
FC Wales sent out the reminder to farmers after recording an average of five cases of illegal felling involving hedges on farms every year – with landowners in Carmarthenshire the worst offenders, followed by Ceredigion.
The call to check if a felling licence was required was echoed by Tir Gofal scheme manager Ann Humble, who said hedgerow trees were important wildlife features of the Welsh landscape.
Failure to check if a licence is needed to fell trees could result in a fine of up to £2,500 or twice the value of the trees, whichever is the higher, along with a criminal record.
It could also result in a breach of Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) requirements, which may affect other Welsh Government direct support and rural development payments.
FC Wales regulatory case manager Chris Botting said, “We appreciate that this is a busy time of year on the farm, particularly for those wishing to meet grant claim deadlines for hedging work.
“However, if you have tree felling work to do I would encourage farmers not to get caught out and to contact us first to see whether a felling licence is required.
“Doing this should then avoid any situations that may lead to a magistrates’ court appearance.”
FC Wales is aiming to raise awareness of the need to check before felling, even though agri-environmental agreements such as Tir Gofal encourage the contract holder to seek and obtain necessary legal permissions before undertaking the work.
Ann Humble said, “Managing land responsibly in Wales is an important part of contributing to a wide range of environmental gains in the countryside.
“Any farmers with approved Tir Gofal hedgerow plans should maintain and preserve hedgerow trees as much as possible. Felling should only be undertaken to enhance the survival of adjacent trees – and felling licences may still be required in these circumstances.
“I would encourage any landowner who is thinking of undertaking any tree felling operations to first make contact with Forestry Commission Wales to check whether a felling licence is needed.
“Acting in such a responsible manner will continue to demonstrate to the wider community the year on year on benefits that active land management brings to the Welsh economy.”
For advice on applying for a felling licence, visit the Forestry Commission Wales website at www.forestry.gov.uk or call 0300 068 0300 and ask for the Grants and Regulation team.
Caption: A licence may be required before renovating hedgerows.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
From 2012, the four existing agri-environment schemes, Tir Gofal, Tir Cynnal, Tir Mynydd and the Organic Farming Scheme, will be replaced by one scheme, Glastir, which is better positioned to meet current and future environmental challenges.
For more information on Tir Gofal, contact Anne Humble at Ann.Humble@Wales.gsi.gov.uk
Press office contact: Clive Davies, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922.