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Felling licence exemptions and other legal controls

Before you apply for a felling licence, find out whether there are applicable exemptions or other legal controls in force

Felling licence exemptions

Before making your application, please check the following list to find out if you need a felling licence. If your felling operation falls within an exempt category, you can start felling immediately.

Location

You do not need a licence to fell trees in:

  • A garden
  • An orchard
  • A churchyard

Type of work

You do not need a licence to carry out the following activities:

  • Lopping
  • Topping
  • Pruning
  • Pollarding

Volume and diameter

You do not need a felling licence:

  • to fell less than five cubic metres in a calendar quarter (note you cannot sell more than two cubic metres per calendar quarter)
  • for trees that have the following diameters when measured 1.3 metres from the ground:
    • 8 cm or less
    • 10 cm or less, for thinnings
    • 15 cm or less, for cutting coppice

Other permissions

You do not need a licence if you have a valid permission, granted in accordance with planning permission (according to the Town and Country Planning Act).

Legal and statutory requirements

You do not need a licence if you need to fell trees:

  • that are dangerous, or in order to prevent a nuisance, this exemption only applies if there is a real rather than perceived danger or nuisance as recognised in law. You may be required to provide evidence that the trees present a danger, for example through an accredited arborculturalist's report or photographic evidence. A diseased tree is not necessarily dangerous. You are strongly advised to contact us if you are considering felling tree(s) you consider dangerous. You may be prosecuted for illegal felling if it is shown that the tree(s) did not present a real or immediate danger or they did not present a nuisance
  • to comply with an Act of Parliament
  • to enable you to carry out work as a statutory undertaker

Other legal controls

Other organisations also have regulations concerning trees and the felling of trees.

Before applying for a felling licence, you must check to see if any of the regulations listed below apply to the area where you wish to carry out the felling operation.

Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs)

TPOs are made by the Local Planning Authority, usually a local council or National Park, in order to protect specific trees and woodland from deliberate damage and destruction. You cannot carry out any felling, topping, lopping or uprooting of trees without the permission of the Local Planning Authority.

Felling trees with a TPO

If you apply to fell trees with a TPO, Natural Resources Wales will decide whether to grant the licence for trees with a TPO or for those located in a Conservation Area. The local authority will be consulted about the application. You will find more information about TPOs in the leaflet ‘Protected Trees - A Guide to Tree Preservation Order Procedures’, produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Conservation areas

You must give the Local Authority six weeks’ notice in writing and provide a detailed map of the area in question before you start cutting down, topping, lopping or uprooting trees in conservation areas. Work must be completed within two years or you will need to reapply for permission.

Hedgerow regulations

Permission may be required under the Hedgerow Regulations (1997) if trees in a hedgerow need to be felled in order to remove the hedgerow.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs)

You must contact the following organisations before you carry out any work on these sites:

  • For Sites of Special Scientific Interest, contact Natural Resources Wales
  • For Scheduled Ancient Monuments, contact CADW, the Welsh Government's historic environment service

Moving timber

There are also regulations to prevent the spread of pests and diseases among trees. According to plant health legislation, you may have to attach a plant passport to consignments of wood before they can be moved. Only registered forestry traders may issue plant passports. These can be incorporated into the delivery note or issued as separate documents.

In cases where there is no risk of spreading tree pests, timber movements are exempt from these requirements. If in doubt, you are required to check with the Forestry Commission Plant Health Service (FCPHS) before moving any wood. You can call the FCPHS on 0131 314 6414.

Forestry legislation governing the felling and movement of timber

You can see a list of the current legislation governing felling and the movement of timber below.

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