Felling trees without a licence is an offence. 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.
The Land Information Search (LIS) will show whether a felling licence has been obtained for the area being felled.
If you suspect unlawful tree felling is taking place you can report this to your local Forestry Commission office or online.
What could happen if you break the law
If no felling licence or other valid permission is in place, or if the wrong trees are felled:
- All parties involved can be prosecuted.
- On conviction, a fine of up to £2,500 or twice the value of the trees, whichever is the higher may be imposed.
- Whether or not a prosecution takes place, the Forestry Commission can serve a Restocking Notice to re-stock the land concerned or any other land as may be agreed. The owner or tenant must maintain the replacement trees to acceptable standards for up to 10 years.
- It may lead to a penalty on all annual payments where you are in receipt of these (including your Basic Farm Payment – currently Single Farm Payment) or a full compliance site inspection. This is because failure to comply with the licensing controls is a breach under the new Cross Compliance rules (GAEC 7a – currently GAEC 16).
- Placing illegally felled timber on the market may also constitute an offense under the Timber and Timber Products (Placing on the Market) Regulations 2013. A breach of these regulations can lead to the seizure of timber brought to market. Conviction of an offense under these regulations can also lead to an unlimited fine and/or a term of imprisonment.
If the restocking requirements of either a felling licence or a restocking notice are not complied with the Forestry Commission may issue an Enforcement Notice demanding action be taken to meet the conditions. It is an offence not to comply with an Enforcement Notice and can mean a fine up to £5,000