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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 (see below for a list of common scenarios).

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).

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.

Tree felling licence application form and detailed guidance notes:

Examples of completed application forms:

Public consultation

Where a tree felling licence application is received, the Forest Service will publish a notice of the application before making a decision on the matter. The notice shall state that any person may make a submission to the Forest Service within 30 days from the date of the notice. The notices are published on the Department’s website.

Enquiries and submissions on applications for felling licences should be addressed to:

Those that made a submission will be informed of the decision. The Department may grant a licence with or without conditions, or may refuse to grant a licence.

Appeals

Tree felling decisions can be viewed on the Department's website.

Where a felling licence has been issued, a 28-day time limit for the receipt of appeals will apply in all cases, regardless of whether or not a submission was received. Third parties may appeal the decision to grant a licence or the conditions associated with a licence. The applicant may also lodge an appeal.

An applicant can appeal either a refusal to grant a licence or a condition specified on a licence. After a felling licence has been issued, a 28-day time limit for the receipt of appeals, from the date of decision, will apply.

Third parties may appeal the decision to grant a licence or the conditions attached to a licence. After a felling licence has been issued, a 28-day time limit for the receipt of appeals, from the date of decision, will apply.

The appeal must be in writing, setting out the grounds and including a statement of the facts and contentions upon which the appellant intends to rely, along with any documentary evidence s/he wishes to submit in support of the appeal. The appeal must be sent to:

  • Forestry Appeals Committee, Kilminchy Court, Portlaoise, Co Laois, R32 DTW5. Tel. 057-8631900

Site Notice

Where a licence for the felling of trees is granted, the licensee shall erect a site notice at the entrance from the public road (or where the entrance is to be created) seven days prior to the commencement of and remain in place for the duration of harvesting operations.

The purpose of this site notice is to inform members of the public about the nature of the felling and that a felling licence has been issued for the harvesting operations underway. It does not form part of a consultation process.

Who do I apply to?

The Forestry Act 2014 is administered by the Forest Service (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine). If you have any queries in relation to tree felling, it is recommended that you seek the advice of the Felling Section:

Further information:

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.