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Overview of new powers within the Forestry Act 1967, their implementation and guidance.

First published:
20 October 2023
Last updated:

Tree felling is a necessary part of sustainable woodland management. It harvests carbon locked up in timber for a range of uses. It is also an important tool in:

  • maintaining, or
  • improving

the condition of woodland habitats.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) regulates tree felling through the Forestry Act 1967. Owners must get a licence before felling growing trees, subject to limited exemptions.

New Powers

The Forestry Act 1967 did not allow conditions in felling licences to ensure the protection of:

  • wildlife
  • habitats, or
  • the environment

during felling operations.

This means NRW could have granted a felling licence that didn’t support other environmental legislation. NRW also had no powers to amend, suspend or revoke a felling licence if something became unacceptable. This could be:

  • the need to change a tree species to be replanted owing to disease risk, or
  • an unexpected sensitivity such as the presence of a protected species coming to light, or
  • environmental harm arising during felling operations

The Forestry Act 1967 was amended to:

  • enable environmental conditions to be added to felling licences
  • allow licences to be amended, suspended or revoked after they have been granted

The amendments are part of the Agriculture (Wales) Act 2023. You can find them at sections 36-44.

Implementation

We have given NRW guidance on "Amending the Forestry Act 1967: principles of implementation" that we expect them to use. Their high level paper "Amending the Forestry Act 1967: Natural Resources Wales approaches paper" sets out the approach they will use to put the new powers in place. It is based on our non-statutory guidance.

Guidance

NRW are working with key stakeholders to develop full external guidance. This will ensure a practical approach to the new powers. They are also developing internal guidance to ensure a consistent approach. These guides will be ready in time for the new powers coming into force on 1 April 2024.