Sources: Woodland area and planting
Under the Forestry Act 1967, it is illegal to fell trees in Great Britain without prior approval, although there are a few exceptions (for trees below a specified size, dangerous trees, and very small scale felling operations). There is a presumption against removal of woodland and loss of forest cover in the UK, so felling licences issued under the Forestry Act will normally be conditional (where felling approval is granted subject to restocking). However, the permanent removal of trees may be granted (through an unconditional felling licence) for thinning woodland (a standard woodland management practice) or if there are overriding environmental considerations, for example to enable the restoration of important habitats (and consent may be required under the relevant Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations).
The removal of trees may also be authorised under planning regulations, to enable development (including for windfarms). In this case, a felling licence is not required.
The Forestry Commission/Forest Service may also require trees to be felled to prevent the spread of pests and diseases, by serving a Statutory Plant Health Notice (SPHN) on the affected site.
Data sources and methodology
Information about felling licences and Statutory Plant Health Notices comes from Forestry Commission and Forest Service administrative systems.
Data on felling licences relates to felling licences that have been issued. It does not indicate whether the felling has taken place (and if so, when).
Further information on administrative sources can be found at: www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-832ey5
All of the statistics in this chapter are outside the scope of National Statistics.
Some figures on felling licences have been previously released. Data on the total area covered by felling licences (conditional and unconditional) in England were released on 29 May 2012 in "Forestry Commission England Corporate Plan Performance Indicators and Headline Indicators 2012".
Figures on Statutory Plant Health Notices were previously released in an end of season report on the P. ramorum management programme, available at www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/WCAS-4Z5JLL
The Forestry Commission's revisions policy sets out how revisions and errors are dealt with and can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/FCrevisions.pdf/$FILE/FCrevisions.pdf
Further information on felling licences (including details of exemptions) is available at:
- England - www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-6dfk86
- Wales - www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-5z8nj2
- Scotland - www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-5zgksj
A new Case Management System was introduced in Scotland in January 2012. This will centralise the data collected on felling licences and provide more information about restocking proposals (including cases where the applicant has agreed to plant an alternative area, does not intend to restock or where open ground is being created) than has previously been gathered.
Further information on tree pests and diseases is available at www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-6abl5v
Data on the total area covered by felling licences in England in 2012-13 will be released in May/June 2013 in "Forestry Commission England Corporate Plan Performance Indicators and Headline Indicators 2013".
Figures on felling licences and Statutory Plant Health Notices in 2012-13 will be published on 26 September 2013 in "Forestry Statistics 2013".