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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, Scottish Forestry, Natural Resources Wales and the Northern Ireland 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.
Information about felling licences and Statutory Plant Health Notices comes from Forestry Commission, Scottish Forestry, Natural Resources Wales 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).
All of the statistics on felling in this chapter are outside the scope of National Statistics.
Figures on felling licences and Statutory Plant Health Notices for 2018-19 are released for this first time in this publication.
Figures on Statutory Plant Health Notices in 2015-16 to 2017-18 in England have been revised from those released in Forestry Statistics 2018. This has resulted in minor upwards revisions (no more than 1) in the number of sites where a Statutory Plant Health Notice has been served and up to 0.1 thousand hectares in the area to be felled.
Our revisions policy sets out how revisions and errors are dealt with and can be found at www.forestresearch.gov.uk/documents/4355/FCrevisions.pdf.
Some related figures for England on felling licences have been released. Data on the total area covered by felling licences (conditional and unconditional) were released on 13 June 2019 in “Forestry Commission Corporate Plan Performance Indicators 2019”.
Further information on felling licences (including details of exemptions) is available at:
Further information on tree pests and diseases is available at www.gov.uk/government/collections/tree-pests-and-diseases.
Figures on felling licences and Statutory Plant Health Notices in 2019-20 will be published on 24 September 2020 in “Forestry Statistics 2020”.
Chapter 1: Woodland Areas and Planting
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