>

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

Share this story

Topics

#ARBatwork #ArbMatters #EmbraceEquity #IWD2023 #PledgeLessPlastic #WomenInArb #WomenInTrees & 12 Faces of Arb 1987 storm 2 Rope 2018 2024 30 Under 30 3ATC 3ATC UK Open 50th annual AA AA award AA Awards Aboricultural Association Accident accreditation Addiction advice AFAG AFL aftercare AGM Agrilus Biguttatus aid air quality Alert Alex Kirkley All Party Parliamentary Group on Horticulture amenity Amenity Conference Anatomy Ancient Tree Forum Annual Awards Anthropology APF APF 2020 APF 2022 app APPGHG application Appointment apprentice apprenticeship Apprenticeships Approved Approved Contractor Approved Contractors ARB ARB Approved Contractor ARB Approved Contractors ARB at work ARB Magazine ARB Show arb training ARB Worker Zone ArbAC ARBatwork ArbCamp Arbor Day Arboretum Arboricultural Association Arboricultural Journal Arboricultural Student Arboriculture arborists Arbsafe Ash Ash Archive ash dieback Asian Hornet Assessments Assessors at atf ATO Australia Autumn Review award Awards Barcham Trees Bark Beetle Bartlett Bartlett Tree Experts bats Bats & Trees beetle Best Student Award beyond ism Bill Matthews biochar biodiversity Biodiversity Net Gain biomechanical biosecurity BNG Book Prize Book Shop Booking Books Bookshop boundaries branch Branches brand Brexit bs5837 BSI Budgeting Tool bursary business Call for Abrstacts Call for Abstracts Call for papers Campout Canker stain of plane Canopy Climbing Collective carbon career careers Cavanagh CAVAT CCS Cellular Confinement Cellular Confinement Systems CEnv CEO Ceratocystis Ceratocystis platani chainsaw chalara charity Charles charter Charter for Trees Chartered Environmentalist chelsea Chelsea Flower Show City & Guilds Claus Mattheck climate climate change climber climbing code Cofor Colleges committees competition competiton conference Conference India Confor conifers conservation Consultant consultation Continuous Professional Development Contractor Contractor Focus Contractors Cornwall Cornwall Branch Coronation Coronavirus Coroner Council Countryside Countryside Code Countryside Stewardship Course for beginners COVID-19 CPD cross industry news Crown & Canopy Cryphonectria parasitica Cumbria DART Date for your diary David Lonsdale deadwood death debate Debt defra deployment Design Devon Director disease diversity DMM document donate dothistroma downloads draft Drought Dutch elm DWP EAC East Anglia ecology Economic Report economy Ecotricity education EFUF Election elections Electricity Elm yellows Emerald Ash Borer England England Tree Action Plan England Tree Strategy English Elm environment Environment Act 2021 environmental EPF Equality equipment Equipment Theft Europe European Arboricultural Council European Forum on Urban Forestry European standards European Wood Pastures EUSTAFOR Event exeter Exhibitors Fall from Height Fatal Fatality felling Fellow Fellow Members Fera Field Trip Finance Fine firewood First Aid FISA flood flooding for Forest Research forestry Forestry Commission forests freelancers FSC Fund4Trees funding fundraiser fungal fungi Future Flora Futurebuild gardening GDPR General Election Geocells Gold Medal Gov.uk government grant grants Grapple Saws Green Brexit Green Infrastructure Green Infratructure Green Recovery Green Up Guarantee guidance Guidance Note Guidance Note 2 guide guides Hazard Tree Health heart-rot Heatwave Hedgerow hedges height Helliwell Help Henry Girling Henry Kuppen History HMRC HOMED Homeworking Honey Brothers honours Horse Chestnut HortAid horticulture horticulturists HortWeek housing HRH HRH Prince Charles HS2 HSE HTA ICF ICoP identification Immigration import industry Industry Code of Practice industry skills Infographic InfraGreen Initiatives Inspiration Insurance Intermediate Tree Inspection International Urban Forestry Congress International Women’s Day International Year of Plant Health invertebrates Investigating Tree Archaeology Conference IPAF Ips Ips typographus Irma irrigation ISA iso ITCC i-Tree IUFC IWD21 Jo Hedger Job Job Centre Plus job opportunity Jobcentre Plus jobs judgement JustGiving Karabiner Keith Sacre Kent Kew Kit land-based Landsaping Landscape Institute Landscape Recovery Scheme Landscape Show landscaping Lantra law Leaf Minor Lectures legal legislation Letters Liability licence Local Authority Treescapes Fund London longevity LTOA Lynne Boddy Magazine Malawi Managegement Plan manifesto maple Mayor of London MBE Melbourne Member Benefit Member Survey Membership Mental Health mentor MEWPs Midlands Morphophysiology moth' motion Moulton College Myerscough NASA National Geographic National Hedgerow Week National Tree Safety Group National Tree Week NATO Natural England NatureScot Netherlands New Year’s Honours News NHS nominations Northern Northumberland Notice notification NTIS NTOA NTOC NTSG Nurseries oak 'oak Oak Processionary Moth Oak-boring Beetle obituary Observatree occupation of OHRG online opm Padua Papua parks parliament Perennial Pest Alert pests Pests & Diseases Pests and Diseases Petersfield petition Petzl photo Phytophthora Phytophthora pluvialis Pine Processionary Moth plan planning Planning Law Plant Health Plant Healthy planting Plantsman Plantsmans Choice Pledge Plumpton College policy poll Poster Power PPE practice Preston Twins Prince Charles Prince of Wales processionary Product Recall Professional Members prosecution Protect and Survive protected tree protection PUWER Qualifications Queen’s 70th Jubilee Questionnaire Quotatis ramorum RC Recruitment Red Diesel reference Reg Harris Registered Registered Consultant Registered Consultants Rehab Rememberance Day renewal REnvP Report Rescue research Research grant Resilience response results Retirement retrenchment review RFS rhs RHS Chelsea Flower Show Ride for Research Ride4Research rigging Rodney Helliwell rogue tree surgeons Royal Forestry Society RSFS Safe Working Practice Safety Safety Bulletin Safety Bulletins Safety Guides Safety Notice Saftey Salaries Sale school science Scotland Scotland Branch Scottish Branch SDG Accord security Seed Gathering Season Seminar seminars Share Sheffield Show Sierra Leone Site Guidance skills skills survey SocEnv Social Benefits of Trees soil soils South East South East Branch South West Speaker spotlight SRT SRWP staff Standards statement Stationary Rope Stationary Rope Technique statutory STIHL Stonehouse Storm strategy student Student Book Prize Student Conference Study Trip Sub-contractors Succession Successsion Supporter survey Sustainable Soils Alliance Sweet Chestnut sweet chestnut blight Sycamore Gap symposium T Level T Levels Tatarian maple TDAG Technical technical guide Technical Guides technical officer Technical Officers Technical Team Technician Members Technology Ted Green Telecommunications tender TG3 Thames & Chiltern The Arboricultural Association The Forestry and Woodlands Advisory Committees The Plantsman’s Choice The Queen’s Green Canopy The Woodland Trust Thinking Arbs Thinking Arbs Day Timbersports Tony Kirkham Tools top-handled chainsaws,Elcoat, TPBE4 TPO Trading Standards trailblazer training transport Tree Tree Care Tree Champion Tree Council Tree Fayre tree felling Tree Health Tree Health Week Tree Inspection Tree Life tree loss tree management Tree of the year Tree Officer Tree officers tree pathogen tree planning Tree Planting Tree Production Innovation Fund Tree Protection tree register Tree Risk Tree Shears tree species Tree Supply Tree Surgeon Tree Surgeons Tree Week Tree Work at Height Tree Workers Zone TreeAlert Treeconomics tree-felling TreeRadar trees trees' Trees & Society Trees & Sociey Trees and Society Trees and the Law Trees for Cities Trees, People and the Built Environment trust' trustee Trustees TrustMark Two Rope two-rope typographus UAG Uitlity UK favourite UK&ITCC ukas Ukraine UKWAS urban urban forest Urban Forestry Urban Tree Challenge Urban Tree Challenge Fund Urban Tree Cover Urban Tree Diversity Urban Tree World Cup urban trees UTD4 Utility Approved Contractors Utility Arboriculture Group UTWC vacancy Vanuatu VETcert veteran trees video Videos Virtual ARB Show volunteer voting VTA WAC Wales Wales Branch Warning Watering watering solutions Webinar webinars website Wednesday Webinars Wellbeing Western Westonbirt Wharton White Paper WIA Witley Women Women in Arb women in arboriculture Womens Arb Camp woodland Woodland Carbon Code Woodland Carbon Guarantee woodland trust woods Work Work at Height Workshops World Environment Day World Fungi Day Xylella young Young Arboricultural Professional Young Arboricultural Professional Award young arborists Young People’s Breakfast Event Young Tree Aftercare Youth Programme zoo

New powers to crack down on illegal tree felling

Author:  Forestry Commission
  03/01/2023
Last Updated:  03/01/2023
  • Package of tough new measures will protect the nation’s trees and curb the scourge of illegal felling
  • Unlimited fines and prison sentences for those felling trees without a licence to be introduced
  • Changes will come into force on 1 January 2023 as part of the world-leading Environment Act

Unlimited fines and prison sentences are amongst a package of new powers to be introduced as part of a crackdown on illegal tree felling in England, Defra and the Forestry Commission announced on Friday 23 December.

Delivered as part of the world-leading Environment Act, changes to the Forestry Act 1967 will deliver more proportionate, impactful and enduring enforcement options. The key changes are:

  • Felling trees without a felling licence, where one was required, will carry the penalty of an unlimited fine – up from the current limit of £2,500 or twice the value of the trees felled;
  • Failure to comply with a Forestry Commission Enforcement Notice and a subsequent court-ordered Restocking Order (meaning any trees felled must be replanted) will put offenders at risk of imprisonment, in addition to an unlimited fine;
  • Restocking Notices and Enforcement Notices will be listed on the Local Land Charges Register, making them visible to prospective buyers of the land – potentially reducing the land’s value.

Landowners have been known to fell trees without a licence in place, in readiness to accept the fine if they are caught and penalised, to repurpose the previously wooded land for commercial reasons. These new powers will curb this illegal practice, streamline and strengthen forestry enforcement administration, and serve to protect our trees, woodlands and forests.

The largest fine issued in recent years following a report of illegal tree felling to the Forestry Commission took place in Hailsham, East Sussex, in January 2020. Hastings Magistrates Court issued a fine of almost £15,000 for the felling of 12 oak trees, all approximately 150 years old.

Forestry Minister Trudy Harrison said:

“Felling trees without a licence is illegal and can cause irreparable harm - scarring landscapes, damaging habitats for wildlife, and causing distress for local communities.

“These robust measures, implemented as part of our world-leading Environment Act, empower the Forestry Commission to tackle the issue head-on with unlimited fines and custodial sentences for the worst offenders.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates this Government’s commitment to protecting our precious trees, which are at the forefront of our efforts to bend the curve of biodiversity loss, tackle climate change and achieve net zero.”

Forestry Commission Chief Executive Richard Stanford said:

“I am very pleased to see these new powers written into law; as we expand the numbers of trees in England, we must end the blight of illegal tree felling.

“Legal tree felling is part of normal forest operations and essential to ensure a sustainable timber supply and these areas are restocked with new trees. The Forestry Commission will not hesitate to investigate allegations of illegal tree felling. Once reported, our top priority is to make sure the harm caused by the felling is put right by ensuring trees are replanted wherever possible. In cases which merit it, we will always seek prosecution.

“These new powers will hit people where it hurts – in their wallets. By guaranteeing that illegal felling is no longer a financially viable option for offenders, these measures are a significant step forward in the fight against this offence and will help in our endeavours to fight the climate emergency and nature crisis.”

Abi Bunker, Director of Conservation and External Affairs, Woodland Trust said:

“This is a welcome announcement which should strengthen protection for trees in England. These changes should send a clear message that felling trees illegally, for example prior to submitting development proposals, will not be tolerated, and that the penalties reflect the value and many benefits trees bring to our towns and cities. It is important that this is backed by increased resources for the organisations that deal with the enforcement of illegal felling. We hope this is a step towards better protection of trees and recognising and protecting our oldest trees as essential parts of our heritage and the most important for climate and nature.”

Bringing greater transparency to the forestry enforcement process, these provisions will also clarify that when an Enforcement Notice is affected by a change in land ownership, the new land owner will inherit the responsibilities of an Enforcement Notice. Furthermore, the new clauses will reclassify Restocking and Enforcement Notices as local land charges, which appear on the local land charge register. This register is routinely checked by conveyancers and will likely deter prospective buyers, removing some of the financial incentive to illegally fell trees.

Finally, the Forestry Commission will have powers to compel the landowner to provide information regarding who else has an interest in the land, including leaseholders and tenants. While the owner will be listed on HM Land Registry, demonstrating who occupies a woodland can be more challenging – these measures will improve visibility in this regard and help to better target any appropriate enforcement action.

Further information

Before anyone can cut down trees, a felling licence from the Forestry Commission is typically required. Exemptions do apply – based on the setting for the tree, type of tree work, timber volume and tree diameter, amongst others. In addition to a felling licence, other permissions or consents to fell the trees may also be required.

Currently, under the Forestry Act 1967, the Forestry Commission is empowered to serve a Restocking Notice upon the individual responsible for the land where unlicensed tree felling occurs, either with or without having secured a conviction. This Notice compels the individual served to restock the land with trees. In addition to a Restocking Notice, a penalty upon conviction for unlicensed felling is currently set at a maximum fine of £2,500 or twice the value of the trees felled, whichever is higher. From 1 January 2023, this increases to an unlimited fine.

Failure to comply with a Restocking Notice or conditions of a Felling Licence may result in an Enforcement Notice being issued, which compels the individual to comply with the conditions in a Restocking Notice or Felling Licence. Further non-compliance may result in a separate offence being committed, which currently carries a penalty of an unlimited fine upon conviction in a Magistrates court. From January 1st 2023, courts will be able to issue a Restocking Order compelling the individual to restock trees or risk being served with a custodial sentence.

The Forestry Commission receives a large number of reports of alleged illegal felling, typically from members of the public. Our staff always look into these reports, but not all reports will in fact be a breach of the felling licence regime. You can report suspected illegal tree felling online.