Forestry and the planning system in Scotland

This section provides guidance to planners and others on how the benefits from an expansion of woodland cover and forestry can be optimised through the new development planning system, and also provides an introduction to the operation of the woodland planting and felling regimes.

The influence of planning authorities on woodland expansion

Whilst the control of most woodland planting and felling is outwith the planning system, planning authorities exert a strong influence over where future woodland expansion should occur and the development of the forestry industry in their areas.

There are also important opportunities to secure new woodland planting and to control woodland removal through the development management system.

Forestry Commission Scotland and the planning system

The main interactions between Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and the planning system are:

  • as a statutory consultee on mineral working aftercare plans, where woodland or forestry is the proposed land use
  • as a non-statutory consultee on development plan policies relating to trees and woodlands
  • as a consultee in the tree preservation order (TPO) process
  • where planning authorities choose to consult on specific planning applications that impact on woodland.

Under the terms of the 2006 Planning etc. (Scotland) Act, and as detailed in Scottish Government Circular 6/2013 – Development Planning, Forestry Commission Scotland also has the same status as a key agency for development planning and is fully involved in the development of:

  • the National Planning Framework
  • Strategic Development Plans
  • Local Development Plans.


right tree right place cover

The right tree in the right place

The right tree in the right place – planning for forestry and woodlands (PDF 1.7Mb) provides guidance to planning authorities on the multiple benefits that can be derived from well-planned and well-managed woodlands and encourages them to prepare new forestry and woodland strategies to guide future woodland expansion.

It also provides advice on how to prepare a new strategy and how forestry and woodland considerations can be incorporated into development planning and management.

 Woodland planting and felling regimes

The control of creating and managing woodland is largely outside the planning system and planning permission is not required for a change of land use to or from forestry, when not related to development.

Forestry in Scotland is regulated by FCS on behalf of Scottish Ministers. The responsibilities and powers of the Forestry Commissioners are derived mainly from the Forestry Act 1967, subsequent amendments and Forestry Acts, the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 and Plant Health Act 1967.

Getting permission to fell trees

The Forestry Act (1967), as amended, requires landowners to apply for a licence for the felling of growing trees, although certain types are exempt.

Read more about felling licenses and exemptions.

Guidance for managing and establishing woodlands

FCS advocates that forestry practices used to create or manage woodland conform to the standards for sustainable forest management outlined in the UK Forestry Standard (2004). Best practice guidance is available to assist compliance and is illustrated on the pages linked below.

Forestry grants

Grants are available under the Scottish Rural Development Programme through the Forestry Grant Scheme.