Felling trees without a felling direction, a felling permission or where the felling is not exempt is an offence.
Why is a felling permission needed?
A valid felling permission is usually needed where the felling of trees is being undertaken.
To prevent the inappropriate loss of woodland a felling permission usually comes with a condition to replant the area where the trees have been felled.
Exemptions include certain situations, persons and tree where felling permission is not needed as follows:
- Any trees with a diameter at breast height (dbh) (1.3 metres from the ground) of ten centimetres or less
- Up to 5 cubic metres of timber within any set calendar quarter (1 January to 31 March, 1 April to 30 June, 1 July to 30 September, and 1 October to 31 December). This exemption does not apply in native broadleaved woodland between 0.1 and 0.5 hectares inclusive or in Caledonian Pinewood Inventory sites
- Trees in orchards, gardens, churchyards, burial grounds and public open spaces
- A tree where necessary for the prevention of immediate danger to persons or property
- Trees where the felling is immediately needed for the purposes of carrying out development granted by planning permission
- Any tree that obstructs the approach or departure of aircraft at an aerodrome or hinders the safe and efficient use of air navigational or aircraft landing installations
- 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 either obstructing or interfering with the installation, maintenance or working of the line or plant, or constituting an unacceptable source of danger
- 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
- A tree by, or at the request of, Scottish Water, where the tree is or may interfere with the functions of Scottish Water
- 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
- Trees of the genus Ulmus (Elm) affected by Dutch Elm Disease and where the greater part of the crown is dead
- Trees on land subject to a Dedication Agreement in positive covenant
- Dead trees - trees that are starting to die or are blown over are not exempt
- Where it's needed by order of a court or tribunal or by any enactment
- A tree covered by a Tree Preservation Order where consent to fell has been granted by the local authority.
You can also view felling permission exemptions for utilities and infrastructure.
Where felling is found to be unauthorised, we'll take appropriate enforcement action. Enforcement actions can include:
- issuing a warning
- issuing a restocking direction that requires the site to be replanted
- passing the case to the Procurator Fiscal’s office to be considered for prosecution
Prosecution can result in a fine and a criminal record for anyone involved.
Under the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018, the felling of each tree is considered to be a separate offence with a maximum penalty of up to £5,000 per offence. The owner of the land will also need to replant the felled area.
How to report unauthorised felling
Before reporting unauthorised tree felling please visit the Scottish Forestry Map Viewer and navigate to the area of concern. Once there, open the ‘Felling Permissions and Licences’ layer from the layer list and tick the box. If a felling permission or licence application has previously been approved for this area, it'll show as a coloured shape on the map. Select this shape for details relating to the felling approval, such as whether it's active or if it's expired.
You can report unauthorised tree felling by completing a unauthorised felling reporting form 2021 if the felling is not shown on the map viewer and is not exempt.
Please email the completed form to your local office.
Alternatively, contact us and we can complete this with you over the phone.
What to expect when you report a case
We'll assess the suspected unauthorised felling to see if permission is in place or if any of the exemptions apply:
- If there's permission or the felling is exempt we'll let you know and close the case.
- If it appears that the felling is unauthorised we'll begin an investigation. This can involve contacting and discussing the case with the owner and anyone else who can give us information about the case as well as visiting the site, measuring the felled timber and the site boundaries.
If we consider pursuing a prosecution, we'll invite the person(s) involved for an interview under caution as well as taking statements from witnesses, to find out who's responsible and to define the extent and impact of the felling. The investigation will be summarised in a report, to enable our staff to make a decision on the appropriate level of enforcement action.