Trees and regulations

Planting trees never needs permission

In the UK you never need anyone's permission to plant trees so you can just get on with it. There are some grants to pay towards tree-planting which are worth looking at for larger areas of planting. We've put together a Guide to tree planting.

Can I cut trees without getting permission?

Although woodlands are well protected there is a great deal that you can do without asking anyone's permission. In most woods (those not covered by a Tree Preservation Order) you are free to cut five cubic metres of timber every three months. That's equivalent to a stack of timber about the size of a car and that's without counting the branches ("lop and top"). So if you want to, you can just get on and do quite a bit of hands-on management. For felling larger volumes the process of getting authority is quite straightforward and the easiest way is to file a Management Plan with the Forestry Commission who regulate private woodlands in England (outside England it's Forestry & Land Scotland, or Natural Resources Wales). The officers dealing with this are generally very positive and constructive about active management and may well have suggestions and ideas so it's worth talking - and your management plan will cover you for 5 years.

Tree Preservation Orders

If your woodland is covered by a TPO, getting permission to cut trees is very similar but the Forestry Commission will check with the local planning authority before signing off your management plan. Where you are wanting to cut a tree or branch because it's a danger to highway users or next to a public footpath you can just go ahead and do it. For more information, see our Regulation: Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) page.

"Sites of Special Scientific Interest" (SSSIs) and "Article 4 directions"

A small percentage of woodlands have rules to protect them from inappropriate development. SSSI designations are used where a woodland contains rare species, or unusual geological characteristics or even ancient historical features. In practice this just means you need to consider the impact of your planned works on the protected feature and to get the relevant authority's say so before you do anything that might create disturbance. For more information, see our Regulation: Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) page.

Article 4 directions are much more about protecting woodlands against development and technically they withdraw some of the rights you would normally have as a landowner - so for example you could normally put up a 2 metre fence without permission but an Article 4 direction means you need to get permission to do that. In our experience Local Authorities always agree to sensible plans but they don't like lorry parks to be built over ancient woodlands - or any woodlands actually! For more information, see our Regulations: Article 4 Direction page.