Penalties for felling without a licence

Felling without a licence is an offence. Everyone involved in the felling of trees - the owner, agent, timber merchant or contractor - must ensure that a licence has been issued before any felling is carried out, unless any of the exemptions apply.

If there is no licence or other valid permission in place, or if the wrong trees are felled, anyone involved can be prosecuted. Contact the local Forestry Commission Scotland conservancy office to report any suspected unlicenced felling.

The Land Information Search (LIS) shows whether a felling licence has been obtained for the area being felled.

Penalties

  • On conviction, a fine of up to £2,500, or twice the value of the trees, whichever is the higher
  • When an owner or tenant is convicted of an illegal felling, Forestry Commission Scotland can serve a Restocking Notice to restock the land concerned, or any other land as may be agreed
  • The owner or tenant must also maintain the replacement trees to acceptable standards for up to 10 years
  • If the conditions of a Felling Licence or a Restocking Notice are not complied with, Forestry Commission Scotland may issue an Enforcement Notice demanding you take action to meet the conditions
  • It is an offence not to obey an Enforcement Notice and can mean a possible fine of up to £5,000

Ensure that a valid felling licence has been granted. Contact Forestry Commission Scotland if there is any doubt about whether a licence is required.

The booklet Tree Felling - Getting Permission (PDF 1.8Mb) provides full details of how to go about applying for a licence. See also the applying for a licence page in this section.

2018 Illegal felling prosecution, Aberdeen

FCS recently worked with the Procurator Fiscal to successfully prosecute a private land owner who felled 4.61 hectares of mixed broadleaved woodland near Aberdeen without a licence.

Working with the local authority felling was stopped and a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) was issued on the whole site.

FCS staff completed their site investigations and presented a report of their findings to the Procurator Fiscal who decided it was in the public interest to pursue a prosecution. This resulted in a court case involving multiple court appearances.

The result was that the owner was found to be guilty of felling trees without a licence.  As a result they were given a fine and now have a criminal record on top of a significant legal bill. The site is now regenerating as a woodland and remains protected by the TPO ensuring it will remain as woodland. In this case the trees are starting to naturally regenerate and the owner has not been issued with a restocking notice. In most cases a restocking notice would also be issued resulting in the owner having to pay the additional cost of replanting the site with trees as per the notice.