Grants and Licences
Woodlands in the UK are protected by the Forestry Act 1986 which requires anyone wishing to fell trees to have a licence from the Forestry Commission. A felling licence is normally issued with conditions which will require you to replant any trees felled or to ensure that the woodland is able to regenerate itself. It is a very simple and effective mechanism to ensure that all woodlands stay as woodlands.
You don’t need one for cutting small quantities of wood, and you are allowed to fell up to 5 cubic metres (5 tonnes) in any 3 month period. Over a year you can fell up to 20 cubic metres for your own use. This is the same as a large lorry load, so for routine maintenance or for cutting a bit of firewood you will not have to worry. However the volume allowed goes down to just 2 cubic meters per quarter if you are selling it.
When you apply for the licence you need to say how many trees you want to fell and their volume. You will need to mark them with paint or a blaze so that the Forestry Commission Officer can see them. Felling Licences can now be downloaded from the Forestry Commission website and you will need a map to go with it. Things may be more complicated if your wood is within a National Park as the Park Authority will also want to know what your intentions are. A few woods also have tree preservation orders on them; this is a designation controlled by the local planning authority, and any management work will require their prior approval. Most councils will employ a tree or forestry specialist who will be able to help you with the process. By the way the legal definition of a “tree” is any tree or shrub which has a diameter of more than 8cm when measured at a point 1.4 metres from the ground. Small than 8cm and you can cut as many as you like, but beware 7cm is really not very big.
If you are not sure what to do, phone the local Forestry Commission Office and ask to speak to the Private Woodlands Officer for your area. She/he will be able to come out to your wood to give advice. (Forestry Commission Exeter 01626 890666)
If you are planning regular woodland management over several years you will find it much simpler to apply to the Forestry Commission for a “Woodland Grant Scheme” which last for 5 years and may even pay you some grant aid. The English Woodland Grant Scheme provides financial support for regeneration, replanting, conservation work and the provision of public access. Follow the links on www.forestry.gov.uk and you can download the forms. Warning! They are complicated but providing you are not in a rush they are reasonably easy to follow. The Woodland Grant Scheme now offers grants under a variety of headings:
- Woodland Planning Grant and Woodland Assessment Grant
- Woodland Management Grant
- Woodland Improvement Grant
- Woodfuel Woodland Improvement Grant
- Woodland Regeneration Grant
- Woodland Planting Grant
Priorities and budgets change from year to year, and are different for different regions, so check on the Commission’s web-site for up to date information, or contact your local Woodland Officer. Alternatively we act as agents for landowners, but in the south west only.
The Welsh Assembly Government have produced their own package of grant aid measures called ‘Better Woods for Wales’ which provides grants for a wide range of management options. These are more generous than their English equivalent but they do generate quite a lot of paperwork. Again follow the links from www.forestry.gov.uk . Free advice is available in Wales, which has a network of “Coed Cymru” advisers who specialise in helping farmers and small woodland owners. Visit www.coedcymru.org.uk
Before you can apply for Forestry Commission grants you will need to register your woodland with the Rural Payments Agency. Remember: Only apply for a grant if the grant conditions meet your own objectives. Never apply for grants simply because the money is there, you will simply end up doing the agencies job for them.
There are lots of laws to protect wildlife and landscapes in the UK and many regulations on rights of way. While it is a good idea to be well informed on countryside law, most of the regulations will actually help you to look after your wood rather than cause you any hindrance. If you are interested in more information, “Countryside Law” by Jones, Palmer and Sydenham is an excellent overview for the general reader. Most landowners join up to the CLA, NFU, FTA or Small Woods Association for legal updates and support.
Country Land and Business Association www.cla.org.uk
National Farmers Union www.nfu.org.uk
The Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor) support all UK timber producers. Members receive an excellent range of support services including market and legal updates. www.confor.org.uk
Small Woods Association www.smallwoods.org.uk