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O’Neill announces introduction of licences for felling of trees in woodlands

Forestry Minister Michelle O’Neill today announced that felling licences for felling of trees in woodlands will come into effect in June 2013.
Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Minister made the announcement following agreement in the Assembly to the Forestry (Felling of Trees) (Calculation of the Area of Land) Regulations (NI) 2013. Parallel legislation, The Forestry (Felling of Trees) Regulations (NI) 2013, will come into operation the same day.

The Minister said: “This is a significant milestone in my Department’s undertaking under the Forestry Act to regulate the felling of trees and re-establishment in woodlands. Under the Forestry Act, my Department has a General Duty to promote forest expansion and sustainable forestry, and the introduction of felling licences will play a major role in this.”

Explaining the purpose of both sets of felling regulations, the Minister said: “Under the Forestry Act, owners of woodlands of 0.2 hectares or more will be required to obtain a licence from my Department to fell trees and to re-establish the woodland under an approved felling management plan. This legislation prescribes the boundaries that owners must refer to for the calculation of an area of woodland to determine if it is 0.2 hectares or more. There are a number of exemptions that apply under the Forestry Act.”

Felling licences will be administered by the Forest Service, and applications will be assessed against legislative requirements, forestry standards and practice guidance. Felling licences will be for a period of at least five years and, importantly, will include a felling management plan of how the felled area is to be re-established.

The Minister added: “My Department is committed to assist woodland owners and the timber industry to embrace the new legislative arrangements. The new legislation will be underpinned by comprehensive guidance on applications, and this will be available on the Forest Service website and in hard copy upon request. The Forest Service will administer felling licence applications through a dedicated branch who will be available to assist with queries and support, particularly during the early period of implementation.”

Concluding, the Minister said: “Forestry is of international importance because of concerns about the global impact of deforestation on climate, and loss of biodiversity. I believe that the implementation of the felling legislation will go a long way in meeting our obligation to promote woodlands, and their management, in a way that contributes sustainably to the diverse needs of current and future society.

“I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Assembly and the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, and to acknowledge the valuable contribution of stakeholders in progressing, over some time, the felling legislation to this final stage.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Forestry (2010 Act) (Commencement No. 3) Order (NI) 2013 brings into effect the provisions under Section 15 to 30 of the Act relating to the Restriction of Felling. Section 1(1) of the Forestry Act places a General Duty on the Department of Agriculture and Rural development to promote afforestation and sustainable forestry.
  2. The new legislation will apply to privately owned woodlands of 0.2 hectares or more, unless exempted under section 15(2) of the Forestry Act. Exemptions include for felling trees in gardens, in city parks or churchyards; for felling fruit trees, or small volumes of timber of up to 5 cubic metres (roughly one very large tree) in any calendar quarter.
  3. The Forestry (Felling of Trees) Regulations (NI) 2013 will apply to woodlands of 0.2 hectares or more. The Regulations will provide for a felling licence for a period of more than five years, subject to a felling management plan which will include how the felled area will be re-established. There is provision under the Regulations for the Department to amend a felling management plan, and for rights of appeal. Forest Service manages approximately 76000 hectares of woodland, and approximately 49000 hectares of woodland are in non-Forest Service ownership.
  4. Forest Service offers grants for the re-stocking of land after felling. The re-stocking grant is available for re-establishment of woodland cover in existing woodland, this includes replanting and natural regeneration. The current grant for replanting is £400 per hectare for conifer, and £600 per hectare for broadleaved trees.
  5. Copies of the Commencement No.3 Order, The Forestry (Felling of Trees) (Calculation of the Area of Land) Regulations (NI) 2013, The Forestry (Felling of Trees) Regulations (NI) 2013, and associated guidance will be made available on the Department’s website.
  6. For media enquiries please contact DARD Press Office 028 9052 4619 or email: Out of hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.