To help protect Britain's forests, a felling licence from the Forestry Commission is required to fell trees. It is an offence to fell trees without a licence if an exemption does not apply. The overall process is described in the Quick Guide and full details are available in the booklet Tree Felling - Getting Permission (PDF 1748kb).
Everyone involved in the felling of trees, the owner, agent, timber merchant or contractor must ensure that a licence has been issued before any felling is carried out, unless one of the exemptions apply. Refer to the Exemptions page for details of which types of felling do NOT require a licence.
Applying for a licence
If none of the exemptions apply, you must complete an application for a felling licence.
This can be done by printing and completing the Felling Licence application form at the bottom of this page.
If you have an agent and wish to provide them with the authority to act on your behalf, you must complete an Agent Authority Form and submit it with your felling licence application. You can also complete this form online.
It is an offence to fell trees without a licence where one is required. If there is no licence or other valid permission, or if the wrong trees are felled, anyone involved can be prosecuted.
Other legal controls
There are other legal controls on tree felling mainly covered by Tree Preservation Orders and the Hedgerow Regulations. This legislation is administered by local planning authorities. Controls also exist that apply to the movement of timber.
- Grant schemes
An application to fell trees can be made as part of a grant scheme application. A separate felling licence application is not required as a felling licence will be issued with the grant scheme contract.
- Conditions on a felling licence
A felling licence will normally include conditions that the felled area must be restocked and the trees maintained for a period not exceeding ten years. The Forestry Commission will discuss any proposed restocking condition with the applicant before a licence is issued. Only in exceptional circumstances will a felling licence be issued to fell trees without subsequent restocking. Such an application will be assessed under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) Regulations 1999. A felling licence for thinning woodland will be issued without a restocking condition.
- Tree Preservation Orders (TPO)
You must inform the Forestry Commission if the trees to be felled are covered by a Tree Preservation Order or are located in a Conservation Area.
- European Protected Species (EPS)
An EPS mitigation licence may be required from Natural England under the Habitats and Species Regulations (2010) if felling operations could adversely affect any EPS. The majority of felling operations will however be able to proceed without a mitigation licence even in the presence of EPS, providing that good practice guidance is followed. It is therefore advisable to familiarise yourself with the species specific guidance, available using the links below, before applying for a felling licence.
- All 17 Bat Species (PDF - 92kb)
- Dormouse (PDF - 95kb)
- Great Crested Newt (PDF - 139kb)
- Otter (PDF 67kb)
- Sand Lizard and Smooth Snake (PDF - 104kb)
A Checklist (PDF 104 kb) has been developed to guide woodland owners and managers through the decision-making process.
If you are unsure, contact your local Forestry Commission Office.
- Other Protected Species
Felling and in particular clear felling during the breeding season of protected species, including all wild birds and red squirrels increases the risk of committing offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. When planning woodland management and forestry operations, you need to take into account the presence of protected species, preferably using a management plan to reduce the risk of adverse impacts on local populations. In some circumstances, a licence may be needed from Natural England.
Forestry Commission guidance for Forest Operations and Red Squirrels in Scottish Forests (PDF - 231kb) contains useful best practice advice, though please note that the legal statutes differ in England.