Project thresholds

An area threshold exists for all forestry projects in Scotland. If the area of land on which a project is proposed is greater than the area threshold, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) might be required, to determine whether the project can take place.

Separate area thresholds exist for land that is in sensitive and non-sensitive areas.

Forestry projects fall into four categories:

  • Afforestation: Planting new woods and forests, including direct seeding or natural regeneration, planting Christmas trees or short rotation coppice;
  • Deforestation: Felling woodland to use the land for a different purpose;
  • Forest roads: The formation, alteration or maintenance of private ways on land used (or to be used) for forestry purposes. This includes roads within a forest or leading to one; and
  • Forestry quarries: Quarrying to obtain materials required for forest road works on land that is used (or will be used) for forestry purposes or on land held or occupied with that land.

Area thresholds and sensitive areas

ProjectThreshold where any part of the land is in a sensitive areaThreshold where no part of the land is in a sensitive area

No threshold

2 hectares in a National Scenic Area (NSA)

5 hectares

No threshold

0.5 hectare in an NSA

1 hectare
Forest roads No threshold 1 hectare
Forest quarries No threshold 1 hectare

Important note

If any work has been carried out in an area adjacent to the project within the previous five years, this area must also be counted towards the area threshold. For further advice contact Forestry Commission Scotland.

Land Information Search

Use the Land Information Search (LIS) to identify any designations or sensitivities which might affect the project. Any designations or sensitivities in place will determine the particular area threshold that applies. Contact details for the organisation responsible for these features will be provided on the report that is produced by the search.

Definition of sensitive areas

  • land notified under subsection (1) of section 28 (areas of special scientific interest) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981;
  • land to which subsection (3) of section 29 (nature conservancy orders) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 applies;
  • a National Park within the meaning of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949;
  • a property appearing on the World Heritage List kept under article 11(2) of the 1972 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the Worlds Cultural and Natural Heritage;
  • a scheduled monument within the meaning of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979;
  • an area designated as a Natural Heritage Area by a direction made by the Secretary of State or the Scottish Ministers under section 6(2) of the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991(d) or as a National Scenic Area by a direction made by the Secretary of State under section 262C of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972(e);and
  • a European site within the meaning of regulation 10 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations 1994.

Environmental Impact Assessment of Forestry Projects (PDF 1.1Mb) has full details of the EIA process.