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Renovating hedgerows may not be uppermost in farmers’ minds at the moment, but Forestry Commission Wales has issued an early reminder to check well before September 1 if a felling licence is needed.
Failure to plan ahead and consider if a licence is required to fell trees before carrying out any work could result in a court appearance for farmers distracted by keeping on top of the day to day business of making ends meet.
Over the past two years, FC Wales recorded seven cases of illegal felling involving hedges on farms.
Farmers are required to renovate hedgerows under Welsh Government agri-environmental grant schemes, notably Tir Gofal, but licences can take up to 10 weeks to administer, particularly where statutory consultation is needed for designated sites.
Such schemes encourage the contract holder to seek and obtain any necessary legal permission before undertaking the work, but the worrying upward trend in illegal felling prompted FC Wales to raise awareness of the need to check first.
FC Wales regulatory case manager Chris Botting said, “We appreciate that every autumn is a busy time 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 well in advance to see whether a felling licence is required.
“Doing this should then avoid any situations that may lead to a magistrates’ court appearance.”
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) categories E and J, which may affect other Welsh Government direct support and rural development payments.
The reminder was echoed by Tir Gofal scheme manager Ann Humble, who said hedgerow trees were important wildlife features of the Welsh landscape.
“Managing land responsibly is an important part of contributing to a wide range of environmental gains in the countryside,” she said.
“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 FC Wales to check whether a 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 FC Wales website at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-5z8nj2 (Welsh page: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-5zzpss ) 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
For more information on Tir Gofal, contact Anne Humble at Ann.Humble@Wales.gsi.gov.uk
Press office contact: Clive Davies, email@example.com, phone 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922.