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Housing developers have been urged to check if felling licences are needed before chopping down trees to make way for new homes - even if the land has outline planning permission.
Forestry Commission Wales issued the warning following a court case when a company was ordered to pay more than £10,000 after it admitted felling 24 broadleaf trees in the Bangor area of north Wales without permission.
The Commission wants developers to avoid the risk of ending up in court by acquainting themselves with the requirements of the Forestry Act, which controls the felling of trees.
Richard Siddons, Head of Forest Services Wales, said, “The Act recognises that there are a small number of exemptions where it does not apply, including land on which full planning permission has been granted by the local planning authority.
“But this exemption does not cover land where only outline planning permission has been granted, or on land which has been allocated for residential development within local authority urban and local development plans.”
In addition to a heavy fine and a criminal conviction, anyone convicted of breaching the Act can be ordered to re-plant trees to replace those which were chopped down.
After the illegal felling incident in north Wales, the company was fined £1,800, ordered to pay £4,000 prosecution costs and £5,000 compensation for the loss of amenity value of the trees felled, plus a victim surcharge of £15, bringing the total bill to £10,815.
Forestry Commission Wales also issued a Restocking Notice on the site, which requires the landowner to replant 120 mixed broadleaf trees there by the middle of 2013.
Failure to comply with a Restocking Notice could lead to an Enforcement Notice being issued and a fine of up to £5,000 if the conditions are not met.
Richard said, “In the most recent case, the developer was unaware of the requirements of the Forestry Act. We want to make landowners and developers aware of the need to check if a felling licence is needed before starting any work.
“The Welsh Government’s Woodlands for Wales strategy recognises the value of trees in urban and semi-urban locations and we want to work with local authorities to ensure that the environmental benefits of trees are taken into account in future planning guidance and development control.”
Over the past four years, Forestry Commission Wales has investigated eight cases of suspected illegal felling involving developers. Of those eight, one resulted in a court case and the issuing of a Restocking Notice, three were issued with Restocking Notices without being prosecuted and four were sent warning letters.
This type of offence is becoming more common on sites close to high density urban settings, particularly in the south Wales valleys.
Caption: Housing developers are being urged to check if a felling licence is needed before cutting down trees.
NOTES TO EDITORS
A total of 14.3 per cent 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.
Forestry Commission Wales’s Grants and Regulations Team controls the felling of trees and issues felling licences. If you are unsure as to whether you require a licence, contact your nearest Forestry Commission Wales office for guidance or telephone the Contact Centre on 0300 068 0300 and ask for advice from the Grants and Regulations Team.
Conviction for illegal felling can attract a fine of up to £2,500 or twice the value of the trees, whichever is the higher.
In any calendar quarter, you may fell up to five cubic metres on your property without a licence as long as no more than two cubic metres are sold.
Among other exemptions are felling fruit trees, trees growing in a garden not affected by a local authority-imposed Tree Preservation Order, orchard, churchyard or designated public open space, felling dangerous trees or trees that are a nuisance, any felling necessary to prevent the spread of a quarantine pest or disease. For a full list of exemptions, consult the Forestry Commission guide, Tree Felling: Getting Permission, April 2007.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Visit News at FC Wales for news, images, press office contact details and links to case studies.
Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email email@example.com