Guidance

Assess environmental impact before you create new woodland

Find out if you need an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before you create new woodland.

Woodland creation means work that involves planting saplings and young trees, direct seeding or natural regeneration processes, planting Christmas trees or planting short rotation coppice to create new areas of woodland.

The thresholds of projects to create new woodland are affected by the scale of the project and the sensitivity of the location in which the project is to take place. Use the table below to see which threshold your project falls into. You must apply for our opinion where your project requires EIA screening, or you may simply be able to notify us of your project instead. For very small proposals away from sensitive locations, you could be exempt from assessment by the Forestry Commission.

Afforestation thresholds table

Project Size (Ha) Land type - sensitivity EIA requirements
0ha – 2ha A sensitive area but not a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Full EIA screening
0ha – 2ha Everywhere else No EIA screening
2ha – 5ha Any sensitive area Full EIA screening
2ha – 5ha Everywhere else (Prior) basic notification
5ha – 50ha Only in a low risk area (Prior) full notification
5ha – 50ha Everywhere else Full EIA screening
>50ha Everywhere else Full EIA screening

Update to Low Risk map

The Low Risk map for woodland creation in England, shown on the Forestry Commission’s map browser, has been updated. The revised area of Low Risk land (where different EIA processes and thresholds apply to woodland creation) now covers 3.2 million hectares. The changes reflect updates to a number of the component data sets, including acid vulnerable catchments, Priority Habitat Inventory and extent of peaty soils. A buffer has also been introduced for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to avoid the impact of afforestation proposals immediately adjacent to designated sites not being fully considered. The changes also take account of new afforestation that has occurred since the original map was published in 2017. However, the largest change results from a change in the way that best and most versatile agricultural land is represented.

The revised map will be applied to all afforestation proposals currently being assessed by the Forestry Commission under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations. Woodland officers may be in touch with you if these changes have a significant impact on how your application may be progressed, or if there is a need for you to provide further information. The updated Low Risk map will apply to all future woodland creation proposals, so if you have been planning a project but have not yet discussed it with us then you may want to recheck the Low Risk map for changes directly affecting your plans.

Notification

If your forestry project is afforestation (woodland creation), small scale in nature and/or located within a low risk area then you may simply be able to notify us of your proposal (giving a basic or full notification) using the EIA Enquiry Form to get our decision.

This process gives specific timescales in which the Forestry Commission must give you a decision. However, if you’re also applying for a woodland creation grant from the Forestry Commission then you will not receive the decision for a Notification until the Forestry Commission has made a decision on the grant offer.

About prior basic notification

For afforestation projects between 2 and 5 hectares in non-sensitive areas, prior basic notification will be sufficient to satisfy the requirements under the EIA Regulations. Use the Land Information Search (LIS) and other online map browsers such as MAGIC.gov.uk to identify any designations or sensitivities that may be affected by the project.

When you submit prior basic notification to the Forestry Commission, you must include:

  • a description of the proposal for the project
  • a map or plan sufficient to identify the land that is the subject of the proposed project (including its boundaries)
  • information about the proposer and any agent or manager of the proposer

Within 28 days of first giving us notification, we may ask you to give further information. If you don’t get an assessment from the Forestry Commission within 28 days then you can assume that the project is unlikely to have significant effects on the environment and no further action will then be required under the EIA Regulations.

About prior full notification

For afforestation projects between 5 and 50 hectares that are fully within low risk areas, prior full notification will be sufficient to satisfy the requirements under the EIA Regulations. Use the Land Information Search (LIS) and other online map browsers such as MAGIC.gov.uk to identify any designations or sensitivities that may be affected by the project.

Full notification submitted to the Forestry Commission on the EIA enquiry form must include:

  • a description of the proposals for the project, including evidence that the proposals are consistent with good forestry practice
  • information about the land that the project covers or affects, including a map or plan sufficient to identify the land and its boundaries, habitats and water features
  • information about the proposer and any agent or manager of the proposer

It must also include evidence that the proposer has consulted on the project with (for example):

  • the person responsible for maintaining the Local Environment Records for the area (in respect of biodiversity)
  • the Environment Agency (in respect of the possible impact of the project on any water features)
  • the relevant local authority (in respect of the possible impact of the project on the landscape)
  • the person responsible for maintaining the Historic Environment Records for the area (in respect of the possible impact of the project on the historic environment)
  • any potentially affected neighbours

Within 42 days of first giving us notification, we may ask you to give further information. If you don’t get an assessment from the Forestry Commission within 42 days then you can assume that the project is unlikely to have significant effects on the environment. No further action will then be required under the EIA Regulations.

Send your form to your local Administrative Hub

EIAs and grant applications for woodland creation

If you’re applying for a Forestry Commission grant then you may not be required to submit a separate EIA enquiry form, as the information in your grant application may meet the Forestry Commission’s requirements to assess environmental impact.

If you do not qualify for an exemption or notification then you must apply to the Forestry Commission for our opinion. Your afforestation project may have impacts on the environment which, when seeking our opinion, will highlight the need for our consent to be given before the project can begin.

See the overview guidance on EIAs for general information about EIAs, or find out more about getting our opinion and consent.

Further information

You can find out more about the process with the:

For additional advice, read the Supplementary guidance for an afforestation project seeking an seeking an EIA Opinion in England (PDF, 583KB, 21 pages).

If you have any questions, you can contact your local Forestry Commission area office.

Appeals

You can make a complaint or appeal against a Forestry Commission decision.

Published 9 July 2018
Last updated 13 December 2019 + show all updates
  1. Addition of information relating to the update of the low risk map.

  2. The 'Supplementary guidance for an afforestation project seeking an seeking an EIA Opinion in England' has been updated.

  3. First published.