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Legal requirements for tree felling

A felling licence granted by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine provides authority under the Forestry Act 2014 to fell or otherwise remove a tree or trees and to thin a forest for management reasons.

The Forestry Act 2014 provides for a single licence process for tree felling:

Felling licences can be valid for up to 10 years in duration, which may be extended for one or more further periods, up to a total of 5 years.

However, trees outside of the forest can be felled without a tree felling licence in certain circumstances:

What is a forest?

Forest land 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 cover at maturity).

A tree means a free-standing, woody perennial plant whose species has the potential to have a more or less definite crown and be capable of reaching a minimum height of five metres at maturity and includes a sapling and the species of birch and hazel.

The Forestry Act 2014 applies to all such areas.

Trees outside a forest are those trees which do not meet the above forest definition. In the case of such trees, certain exemptions exist to the requirement to submit a tree felling licence application (see below).

Making a tree felling licence application

All those involved in tree felling must ensure that a felling licence has been issued before any felling is carried out, unless they are satisfied that the felling is exempted (see below). It is an offence to fell trees without a felling licence if an exemption does not apply.

It is very important that an applicant reads the guidance notes (available for download below) very carefully before filling out the application form (available for download below). For instance, if an applicant requires a 10-year licence, details of all proposed felling operations for the 10-year period must be supplied in the felling information table (Part 3). Otherwise a licence will only be issued to cover the fell operations and years specified in the felling information table.

Tree felling licence application form and detailed guidance notes:

Examples of completed application forms:

Appropriate assessment procedures

When the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) receives an application, it carries out 'screening' to assess if there is a possibility of the proposed forestry project having an effect, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects on a Natura site within a 15-km radius.

Natura sites include Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). They are designated to afford protection to the most vulnerable habitats and species in Ireland.

DAFM can only approve a forestry-related application where it deems at screening stage that there is no possibility of an effect on any Natura site, or (at appropriate assessment stage, if required) that there will be no adverse effect on the integrity of any Natura site.

You can find further details on the appropriate assessment procedures here.

Site Notice

The Site Notice must be erected at least seven days prior to the commencement of harvesting operations and must be maintained in position for the entire duration of the works.

The notice must be renewed or replaced if it is removed or becomes defaced or illegible within that period. 

Consultation procedures

All applications submitted for approval require public consultation:

  1. A 30-day consultation period will commence on receipt of the licence application. Applications are free to view on the DAFM Forestry Licence Viewer. Any member of the public can make a submission within 30 days of publication of the licence application. A fee of €20 for a submission on any application will apply.

  2. A second 30-day consultation period will commence after receipt of a Natura Impact Statement (NIS) or after an Appropriate Assessment Report is produced by the Department, and relevant documentation will be published on the DAFM Forestry Licence Viewer. If a NIS is submitted with the initial application only one public consultation period is required. 

  3. On publication of a licence decision from DAFM, any member of the public can submit an appeal within 14 days to the Forestry Appeals Committee. A fee of €200 for making an appeal applies.

Lists of Appropriate Assessment cases open for consultation are published on the forestry pages of the Department’s website

Further information:

How to apply for a felling licence

Frank Barrett (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) explains how to apply for a felling licence, how to complete the harvesting and reforestation plan and gives an overview of the public consultation and appeals process. Filmed in June 2019 at a Teagasc Talking Timber event, Co Cork.

Felling of trees - exempted trees

Here are some common scenarios where trees can be felled without the need to submit a tree felling licence application under Section 19 of the Forestry Act, 2014:

  • A tree in an urban area. An urban area is an area that comprised a city, town or borough specified in Part 2 of Schedule 5 and in Schedule 6 of the Local Government Act 2001 before the enactment of the Local Government Reform Act 2014.
  • A tree within 30 metres of a building (other than a wall or temporary structure), but excluding any building built after the trees were planted.
  • A tree less than five years of age that came about through natural regeneration and removed from a field as part of the normal maintenance of agricultural land (but not where the tree is standing in a hedgerow).
  • A tree uprooted in a nursery for the purpose of transplantation.
  • A tree of the willow or poplar species planted and maintained solely for fuel under a short rotation coppice.
  • Trees outside a forest – within 10 metres of a public road and which, in the opinion of the owner (being an opinion formed on reasonable grounds), is dangerous to persons using the public road on account of its age or condition.
  • Trees outside a forest – the removal of which is specified in a grant of planning permission.
  • Trees outside a forest – of the hawthorn or blackthorn species.
  • Trees outside a forest – in a hedgerow and felled for the purposes of its trimming, provided that the tree does not exceed 20 centimetres in diameter when measured 1.3 metres from the ground.
  • Trees outside a forest – 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
    • That the removal of it, by the owner for the foregoing purpose, when taken together with the removal of other such trees by the owner for that purpose, would not result in the total volume of trees, on that holding and removed by the owner for that purpose, exceeds 15 cubic metres in any period of 12 months.

This exemption does not apply in the case of a tree:

  • Within the curtilage or attendant grounds of a protected structure under Chapter 1 of Part IV of the Planning and Development Act of 2000 (Act of 2000)
  • Within an area subject to a special amenity area order
  • Within a landscape conservation area under section 204 of the Act of 2000
  • That is more than 150 years old;
  • Within:
    • A monument or place recorded under section 12 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1994
    • A historic monument or archaeological area entered in the Register of Historic Monuments under section 5 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1987
    • A national monument in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 1994
    • A European Site or a Natural Heritage Area within the meaning of Regulation 2(1) of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 477 of 2011)
The Forestry Act 2014

This video outlines the main points of the Forestry Act 2014, explains how to make a felling licence application and gives an overview of the DAFM’s felling decision tool.