The following information is intended to assist relevant authorities responsible for maintaining the utilities network and key infrastructure, to understand felling permission requirements when dealing with windblown trees resulting from Storm Arwen. We're keen to support those responsible for maintaining key infrastructure during this time and recognise the difficulties of the challenges faced and the speed with which a successful response has been delivered. A number of felling permission exemptions specific to these circumstances are in place. Guidance on how to apply them correctly in your situation is provided below. If you're applying for an exemption, you're required to collect evidence that the exemption applies. This can be done by carrying out basic surveys, taking photographs and by recording any decisions you make in your risk assessments and method statements before starting work. You should keep these records for 3 years.
A tree where necessary for the prevention of immediate danger to persons or to property. This exemption applies where trees present an immediate danger and a direct risk to people or to infrastructure and utilities. The term ‘property’, may include buildings, access tracks, or where trees have compromised boundaries such as fences or dykes. This exemption would be relevant to infrastructure not specifically covered by other exemptions, such as mobile phone masts. Tree felling should only be carried out where the removal of dangerous branches is not sufficient to minimise the danger. Trees that are perceived to be dangerous (for example trees that may or may not fall in extreme weather events) are not exempt and require a felling permission.
A tree by, or at the request of, an electricity operator, where the tree is in close proximity to an electric line or electrical plant (existing or to be installed) and the presence of the tree is:
Danger is where the tree is currently touching an electric line or where a tree may be climbed and a line touched from the tree.
Trees blown onto power lines, trees that need to be felled to safely fell trees blown onto lines and trees blown across roads and tracks that are required to safely access the line are exempt.
Please note, resilience felling will require felling permission.
The Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 confers power to Local Authorities (for the public roads network on their lists) and to Transport Scotland (for the Trunk Roads Network) to identify trees that are likely to cause danger by falling on to the road and to serve notice requiring those trees to be felled or to carry out the works themselves.
Trees that have blown over the road network can be felled by order or directly by these authorities without felling permission. Trees that are likely to blow over and that are within falling distance of the road can also be felled by order or directly by these authorities under The Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.
See 'Statutory Undertakers' below.
Trees on land occupied by a statutory undertaker and at the request of a statutory undertaker which are obstructing or interfering with the construction or maintenance of their work.
“Statutory undertaker” means a person authorised by any enactment to carry on any railway, light railway, tramway, road transport, water transport, canal, inland navigation, dock, harbour, power, lighthouse undertaking, or any undertaking for the supply of hydraulic power or of water, or a holder of a licence under section 7A of the Gas Act 1986. Statutory undertakers must be able to demonstrate that the trees currently obstruct the construction or maintenance of infrastructure, rather than a theoretical future scenario where the trees could obstruct planned works.
Blown trees within the land occupied by the statutory undertaker that are interfering with the works of the undertaker, can be felled without felling permission.
This exemption only applies to the felling of trees on land that statutory undertakers occupy – either in their ownership or under an agreement with the land owner (for example rail tracks). Statutory undertakers cannot carry out the felling of trees on land that they do not occupy without a felling permission signed by the owner of the land, where other exemptions do not apply.
Although felling carried out by statutory undertakers does not need permission, in the above circumstances, the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018 confers a duty on all Scottish public authorities to promote Sustainable Forest Management. Therefore all felling must be assessed for its appropriateness and the requirement for compensatory planting, in line with the Scottish Government’s policy on the Control of Woodland Removal.
A tree by, or at the request of, Scottish Water, where the tree is or may interfere with the functions of Scottish Water.
Windblown trees can be felled under this exemption where they are, for example, interfering with waste water treatment plants, or obstructing Scottish Water in their maintenance of, and access to, water infrastructure.
A tree by, or at the request of, a local authority, where done in accordance with the local authority’s functions under the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 section 56(1) and (2) (a) to (d).
Felling under this exemption must be in accordance with the implementation of an approved flood risk management plan or where it's necessary to reduce the risk of a flood which is likely to occur immediately and have serious adverse consequences as detailed in the flood risk legislation above.
Other exemptions that may be appropriate
Any trees with a diameter at breast height (measured at 1.3 metres from the ground) of ten centimetres or less do not require felling permission.
Less than 5 cubic metres of timber
5m³ of timber can be felled within any set calendar quarter, per land ownership.
Felling permission is not required in:
- Orchards - an area of land, frequently enclosed, given over to the cultivation of fruit trees.
- Gardens - a piece of ground adjoining a house, in which grass, flowers, and shrubs may be grown.
- Churchyards - an enclosed piece of ground in which a church stands.
- Burial grounds - land that's set apart as devoted to the internment of human remains, including land that was, but is no longer, used primarily for the burial of human remains. The full definition of a burial ground can be found in the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016.
- Public open space - public open space is an area which is designed and maintained for use by the public but does not include any stands of trees which have a canopy cover of more than 20% within an area of 0.1 hectares or greater. This may include open areas within public gardens, parks, urban greenspaces and trees forming part of the built environment, that's those lining streets.
Contact us for advice if you're in doubt as to whether any of the exemptions apply.