Regulation of felling and restocking

16 October 2018

Confor welcomes the opportunity on behalf of its membership to respond to Scottish Government’s consultation on regulation of felling and restocking as part of the regulatory regime under The Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018 – [The Act].

General comments

We welcome the principle of the new regulations remaining as close as possible to those existing under the 1967 Forestry Act, and the fact that Forest Enterprise Scotland (to become Forestry and Land Scotland from 1st April 2019) in managing the National Forest Estate will be subject to the same regulations as the private sector. 

 However, a number of the proposals will depend on guidance from Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) [to become Scottish Forestry (SF) from 1st April 2019] as to how Conservancies will interpret the regulations and apply them, and we have obviously not seen that yet.  The consultation proposals allow SF to apply specific conditions to felling permissions, which are so wide ranging that if not used wisely, the level of bureaucracy could increase further.

 We therefore respond on the understanding that the guidance will be developed with the agreement of industry, and will be proportionate in nature.  Any reference to ‘sustainable forest(ry) management’ should be qualified as referring to the UK Forest Standard.

In principle Confor is content with the proposals, except in the following instances:


Volume –

  1. although the consultation paper does not seem to mention this, there has been discussion about the 5m3 per quarter exemption referring to each property or woodland block as opposed to an exemption for an individual owner, and we support this concept, otherwise landowners with many different woodlands could be disadvantaged.
  2. Many of our members would prefer to see the existing exemptions for ‘small trees’ retained – for silvicultural and practical management reasons, and whilst it is acknowledged that coppicing in Scotland is not common, it is a useful practice for some, and should not be dismissed.
  3. We disagree with the removal of exemption of small tree removal in native woodlands, as described at page 8.  This is a compromise to attempt to satisfy those who see a threat to this type of woodland close to potential development land.  But the effect of having to go through the permission procedure for relatively small amounts of woodland management will put off landowners and farmers bringing small woodlands in particular into positive management.

Danger or nuisance –

we disagree with not maintaining the exemption for nuisance trees.  There are and will continue to be many instances where individual windblown trees need to be dealt with swiftly.  So long as the principles of sustainable forest management are not compromised, we see no reason not to continue the present exemption.

Infrastructure –

we have expressed concerns about previous loss of woodland due to works by the statutory undertakers – electricity, water, roads, etc., especially where no compensatory planting has been carried out.  We would have maintained an objection to the proposed continuing exemptions, save for the explanation by government that separate legislation grants relevant powers to the statutory undertakers, and we are re-assured by the commitment on page 10 to review and improve existing relevant guidance in this respect.  We trust that industry representatives will be involved in such a review.

Dead trees –

  1. we appreciate the difference the wording of The Act has made in referring to the felling of all trees rather than growing trees as per the 1967 Act. 
  2. We agree with the exemption for felling dead trees, which is a logical necessity.
  3. Whilst we take some assurance from FCS and Scottish Government that tolerances within approved Long Term Forest Plans (LTFP) and Management Plans will be used to cater for a sensible interpretation of the new requirements, so that necessary commercial operations are not unduly hindered or compromised by a windblow event, we remain against the principle of requiring a felling permission to cope with windblow, and suggest that more work is needed here to find an alternative way of complying with the intent of The Act. 
  4. The existing Tolerance tables should be compared to what is currently allowed to FES in management of the National Forest Estate.


Felling: Applications, issuing permissions, compensation, felling directions

Registration –

  1. so long as these new requirements are dealt with on a case by case basis, this would appear acceptable provided there is no cost to the woodland owner.
  2. We object to having to notify government prior to a change of ownership – this should remain a matter of confidentiality between seller and purchaser.

Applying for a permission –

  1. we disagree with continuing the present requirement to state pre and post stocking densities in a thinning permission application, which has led to spurious practice and unnecessary debate.  It is suggested that the permission is granted on condition that thinning will be in accordance with the principles of Field Book 2 – thinning control (Forestry Commission).
  2. We do not believe the regulations should state that all the information listed on page 14 should be a minimum requirement of every application.  We would prefer an undertaking to develop guidance with industry which is more appropriate and proportionate than at present, which amongst other things could include the length of a felling permission for thinning where a LTFP does not exist.

 Issuing a permission –

  1. We welcome development of a Customer Charter, and trust this is done with suitable input from industry.
  2. We object to inclusion of conditions relation to the impacts of the felling and subsequent management of the site(s) on communities or individuals – applications will go on the Public Register, and this should provide a sufficient opportunity for communities and individuals to make their observations.  This type of prior consultation with the public is best left to Best Practice rather than regulation, as Confor has already promoted.
  3. As per 1(b) above we object to any condition requiring prior notification of an intended change of ownership.


Impact Assessments

Confor has identified a number of concerns in this response which would warrant a review of the BRIA.

Jamie Farquhar

Confor National Manager for Scotland