The Forestry Commission controls tree felling by issuing felling licences.
Applies to England
Who can apply for a licence
Only someone with an interest in land (for example a freeholder, leaseholder or tenant – or any agent acting on their behalf) can apply for a felling licence.
Lessees must ensure that their lease entitles them to fell trees. Where an owner or lessee uses an agent, the agent must demonstrate that they are authorised to represent the applicant by using the Forestry Commission agent authority form.
In some circumstances, a licence can be issued to someone who is not the owner or lessee but who has sufficient legal interest in the land. This means that they must be able to demonstrate that they can legally fell the trees in question.
We’ll accept applications from and issue licences to a business or organisation, so long as they have sufficient interest in the land. Such applications must include details of a named individual who has authority to sign the application on behalf of the organisation. This person will likely be an employee of the business or organisation, or an agent with sufficient authority.
Felling trees without a licence, where one would have been required, is an offence. Please note that from 1 January 2023 the penalties for illegal felling have changed.
Not every tree felling project requires a felling licence. Exemptions can be based on:
- the type of tree work
- the volume and diameter of the tree
- other permissions already in place
- legal and statutory undertakings
Find out more about felling licences, exemptions and how to apply in our guide Tree felling - getting permission.
You can also contact your nearest Forestry Commission area office before felling to check whether a licence is required.
Estimating timber volume
Thecan help you estimate the volume of timber you may wish to fell.
Environmental map browsers
The Forestry Commission’s Land Information Search (LIS) is a map-based tool that allows you to search for information about land designations or features that might already apply to your land or affect your woodland management and tree felling proposals. It also shows details of other approved felling licenses in your area.
Natural England’s MAGIC map browser contains a greater range of environmental data and can provide further information on designations and issues that might affect your woodland or woodland management proposals.
How to apply for a tree felling licence
Apply for a felling licence using our Felling Licence Online service
If you require a paper felling licence application form then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a form. We provide this by email unless you provide your full postal address, and we will then send one to you by post. Do not apply online if you request a paper copy of the application form.
Send a completed application form to the Forestry Commission administrative hub that covers your area.
If you’re applying to fell trees on a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) then you should also complete a Supplementary notice of operations within a site of special scientific interest. This document will provide more detail on how you propose to manage the tree felling and protect the SSSI, and will allow us to issue Natural England’s consent for the work at the same time as the felling licence.
Applying for a licence involving larch species
Larch trees are particularly susceptible to ramorum disease, caused by the Phytophthora ramorum organism. Infected larch trees produce large quantities of the spores that spread the disease, and these can be spread many miles on moist air currents, threatening other plants in the area.
Special precautions to minimise the risk of spread during felling operations are therefore needed when felling larch trees that have, or might have, the disease. Among these precautions is a variation applied in some high-risk parts of England to the Forestry Commission’s usual procedure for processing felling licence applications involving larch. The variation is explained in the Forestry Commission’s Operations Note 23: Processing felling applications involving larch species, which provides:
- a background
- information if there’s a failure to agree an extension to your application
- information on how to deal with intimate mixtures
- further information on woodland management plans/existing felling permission
Applying for a licence to prevent the spread of a pest or disease or due to a public safety issue
On Friday 22 October 2021, Defra announced a modification to the way a limited number of felling licence applications will be dealt with by the Forestry Commission. A small number of felling licence applications directly related to the management of tree pests and diseases or due to a public safety issue, may now be excluded from publication on the Consultation Public Register, where the Forestry Commission deem that the proposed tree felling needs to be expedited for an overriding biosecurity or public safety benefit.
The exclusion from the Consultation Public Register for these applications will not impact the need to consult with statutory bodies, where relevant, and does not impact on other conditions related to approving a felling licence, such as the need to restock. However, it remains vital that people continue to make felling licence applications in a timely way.
All Forestry Commission approved felling licences will continue to be published on the Decision Public Register so the public will be kept informed of decisions.
If you urgently require a felling licence due to a tree pest, disease or public safety issue, you must provide details in your application. Please refer to the supporting Felling Licence Online – user guidance for guidance.
The Forestry Commission will make an assessment on all applications to determine whether they should be excluded from the Consultation Public Register.
How to appeal our decision
If an approved felling licence has replanting conditions applied to it and you are not happy with them, you should initially contact your local woodland officer and discuss the issue.
However, if you’re still unhappy with the conditions applied to your felling licence, you can appeal to the appropriate Forestry Minister. You must do this in accordance with the details on your felling licence. If you do not follow these then your appeal will not be accepted.
The minister will usually get the advice of a reference committee (independent of the Forestry Commission and selected to consider the case), before giving a decision on whether the conditions should remain or be amended.
You may also appeal against refusal of a felling licence to the minister, but only if you have been refused a licence twice for the same area and work proposals. There must be at least 3 years between our first and subsequent refusal.
Management plans and felling licences
Felling licences can be issued following the review and agreement in principle of a detailed woodland management plan that meets the standards and requirements set out in the UK Forestry Standard.
Restocking conditions on a licence
Restocking conditions will normally be included on felling licences where tree felling will result in creating openings within a woodland. Conditions are applied to ensure:
- restocking or regeneration of the felled area with replacement trees
- replacement trees are maintained for a period not less than 10 years
Felling licence applicants are required to provide restocking proposals as part of their application, and these will be discussed with the Forestry Commission when processing the application. The applicant will then be sent a copy of the final proposed restocking conditions. They must raise any concerns over the proposed conditions within 14 days in order to agree an alternative before the licence is issued.
The government has a general policy against felling woodland without restocking. Licences to thin woodlands are granted unconditionally, without the need to restock.
Using an approved felling licence
Once a felling licence is approved by the Forestry Commission it cannot be changed.
If you need to change your felling proposals then you will need to make a new application. If you have already felled the trees within the licence, you must complete the associated restocking conditions. These also cannot be changed.
Selling land with a felling licence
A felling licence is transferable to a new land owner as long as there is no change to the felling or restocking set out in the felling licence.
Any restocking conditions that apply to the land after a felling licence has been enacted remain in force after the land is sold. Those who sell land with a felling licence must advise the Forestry Commission and the purchaser accordingly.