Where a person wishes to cut or fell a tree other than exempted trees, he must apply to the Minister for a licence. The procedure for the application for the licence is set out. Conditions may be applied including in particular replanting conditions. Certain categories of trees are exempted from the requirement for a felling licence.
The Minister may make an order prohibiting felling or removal of trees including exempted trees. Failure to comply is an offence.
Conditions may be attached to a felling licence, or a replanting order served on any person. The Minister must send a copy to the registration authority which is to register it as a burden on the land, whether registered or unregistered.
The Minister may appoint officers for the purpose of the enforcement of the legislation. Authorised officers have powers of entry and enforcement.
There is provision for fixed penalty notice where an authorise officer has reasonable grounds for believing a person has felled or removed the tree without a licence. There is provision for summary prosecution.
The Minister may issue a replanting order requiring owners to replant, felled trees that are being cut without a licence or where serious damage has been sustained.
There are a number of offences. There is provision for forfeiture of equipment and timber seized as a result of unlawful felling or removal of trees.
A forest is defined as land under trees with a minimum area of 0.1 hectare, and tree crown cover of more than 20% of the total area or the potential to achieve this at maturity.
The Forest Consent Regulations means the European Communities (Forest Consent and Assessment) Regulations 2010 as amended.
The Minister has authority to grant licences and attach conditions for the purpose of
- felling or removing trees or thinning forests,
- forest road works,
- aerial fertilisation of forests.
The Minister may approve and attach conditions to forest management plans. The Minister may approve and provide grants for any activities related to his functions.
The Minister may develop guidelines, codes of practice and standards for good forestry practice. The Minister may purchase and develop land suitable for afforestation and other forestry-related activities. He may develop and maintain forestry inventories. He may prepare publish and distribute statistics relating to forestry.
Applications for licences, approvals, grants and entries on the register may be made with or without conditions. Conditions may be varied. Licences may be suspended or revoked. Revocation requires that there be substantial grounds warranting the course of action and that the exercise of other powers would not remedy the matter.
If the decision is refused or subject to specific conditions, or there is a revocation or suspension of a licence, the Minister shall give reasons and inform the applicant of the procedure for appealing. The conditions may remain in force notwithstanding appeal.
It is confirmed that a person may, without a licence, fell or otherwise remove an exempted tree. This is subject to planning legislation and other private law considerations such as trespass, nuisance etc. which may be relevant.
The provisions in respect of felling of trees is updated.
An application for a licence to fell trees must specify details of the applicant, the trees concerned and other requisite details. A licence is generally valid for up to 10 years, as specified.
Conditions may be attached to the licence, and they may be subject to variation. They include in particular
- erection of notices,
- advising tree felling is being carried on;
- requiring replanting of such species, at such places and in such numbers, at such density within such period as may be specified;
- requiring, fencing or barriers to prevent trespassing by animals, during such period;
- requiring submission of a report
- requiring submission of a forestry management plan;
- such other environmental silvicultural requirements as the Minister considers appropriate.
Felling any trees or permitting or causing them to be felled without a licence is an offence. It is subject on summary conviction, to a fine of €200 per tree up to €5,000 or imprisonment of 6 months or on conviction on indictment, up to €1,000,000, and imprisonment for up to 5 years.
The procedure for the application for a felling licence is set out. The Minister is to endeavour to determine the matter within four months. Further information may be requested, and a corresponding time limit applies.
The following are exempted trees:
- A tree in an urban area,
- a tree within 30 metres of a building not being a temporary structure but excluding building built after the trees were planted.
- A tree that in the opinion of the Minister, is required to be removed to control and prevent spread of fire,
- protect the integrity of the forest gene pool,
- for forestry survey purposes,
- to mitigate a threat to a habitat or other environmental resource.
Also exempt are trees in the opinion of the Minister,
- planted and managed solely for its foliage or for decorative purposes, such as Christmas trees,
- removed by a public authority in the performance of its functions,
- in the opinion of the planning authority, dangerous on account of its age, condition or location,
- in the opinion of the emergency services, required to be removed, after an accident,
- less than 5 years of age that came about through natural regeneration and removed from a field as part of the normal maintenance of agricultural growth (but not where the tree is standing in a hedgerow),
- uprooted in a nursery for the purpose of transplantation,
- of the willow or poplar species planted and maintained solely for fuel under a short rotation coppice,
- removed with the permission of the Minister or Teagasc, for demonstration or for scientific purposes,
- on land managed by the Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for the purposes of the Wildlife Acts and felled and uprooted on his behalf,
- outside a forest within 10 metres of a public road which is in the opinion of the owner formed reasonably dangerous to persons using the public road on account of its age or condition,
- removal specified by grant of planning permission,
- on an agricultural holding and removed by the owner for use on that holding, provided it does not form part of a decorative avenue or ring of trees, its volume does not exceed 3 cubic metres and its removal, when taken together with other removals would not result in the total volume of trees, removed by the owner for that purpose, exceeding 15 cubic metres in any 12 months,
- of the hawthorn or blackthorn species,
- in a hedgerow and felled for the purposes of trimming, provided the tree does not exceed 20 centimetres in diameter when measured 1.3 metres from the ground, (last five conditions apply to agricultural holdings).
There are further exemptions for removal of trees in burial ground. Apple, pear, plum and damson species are exempted.
Certain further categories of trees are not exempted trees unless
further conditions apply.
- a tree within the curtilage or attendant grounds of a protected structure under the Planning Act,
- within the area subject to a special amenity area order,
- within a landscape conservation order area,
- within a monument, historic monument or national monument,
- within a European Site or a natural heritage area or
- a tree which is more than 150 years old, shall not be an exempted tree, for the purpose of the agricultural exception above.
The above is not to be interpreted as permitting felling or removal of trees while planning legislation, wildlife legislation otherwise restricts it.
The Minister may issue a preservation order prohibiting the felling or removal or continued felling of trees or exempted trees. Removal of a tree in contravention is an offence.
Where a replanting order is served on any person, the Minister is to register the same in the Registry of Deeds or Land Registry. There is provision for the discharge of the burden on the Minister’s certificate.
The Minister may grant a licence for afforestation, forest road works and aerial fertilisation of forests. The procedure for the application is set out. It is to be valid for such period as is specified.
Regulations may be made governing the issuing of licences for the above purposes. A person who undertakes the above work without a licence is guilty of an offence.
The legislation has comprehensive enforcement powers. There is provision for appointment of authorised officers who may exercise power. Members of an Garda Síochána are deemed authorised officers.
Authorised officers may enter premises and lands at reasonable times to search, examine, and inspect etc. for the purpose of their functions under the legislation. Authorised officers may examine trees, plants, timber products, installations, processes, procedures and records.
They may take samples and remove records etc. They may examine electronic records. They may require persons in charge to furnish information. They may take measurements, photographs etc.
A warrant is necessary to enter a private dwelling house. It is an offence to obstruct or fail to co-operate with an authorised officer.
The Minister may issue replanting orders when trees have been felled or removed without a licence, in breach of licence or if they are seriously damaged. This applies irrespective of whether a prosecution has been brought.
Breach of a replanting order is an offence subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €5000 with provision for a continuing offence for every day the contravention continues.
The Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 aims to align the processes and procedures for appeals of licensing decisions to the Forestry Appeals Committee with similar planning processes.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is the licensing authority for licences for felling, afforestation, forest road works or aerial fertilisation of forests. Public participation in licence decision making is afforded at application stage by means of submission and once a decision is made and a licence issued, there is a right of appeal to the Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC).
The former appeals system was overwhelmed, with long delays in processing and required reform in order to become more efficient and effective for all stakeholders.
The Act :
- Increases the capacity of the FAC to determine appeals by enabling it to sit in divisions of itself;
- Enables the FAC to determine appeals without an oral hearing where it is possible to properly dispose of an appeal in that manner;
- Provides the Minister with a regulation making power to specify, inter alia, the procedures in relation to appointments to the FAC and for other FAC related matters generally;
The Act provides for fees for appeals, by means of regulation, similar to other planning processes. It also provides for measures of enhanced public consultation, providing for the publication of documentation relating to forestry applications.