Trees & Tree Felling
The Forestry Commission is the relevant authority in England and Scotland, and in Wales it is Natural Resources Wales. Unless your wood is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, or lies in a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Forestry Commission rules allow most of the routine cutting you are likely to want to do. In particular, they only count as trees those that are above 8cm diameter at breast height. Beyond that, you can without permission cut five cubic metres of timber in any one calendar quarter for private use. The volume of a tree can be calculated from its diameter and height (generally ignoring the branches); the Forestry Commission have a summary table to show how many trees represent 5 cubic meters. So for example, every three months you would be able to cut down 70 trees that are 4m tall and of 15cm diameter in the middle, giving plenty of scope for management and glade/path creation. It is now generally seen as desirable to have some glades or clearings in woodland so you will not have problems if your cutting is sensible.
If you want or need to fell more trees, you will need a felling licence from the Forestry Commission. This is issued by your local FC officer, who will probably meet you in your wood to discuss it, and also possibly a management plan covering the whole of your wood for several years. Grants may be available if you need to do a substantial amount of work. In our experience the Forestry Commission is an extremely helpful organisation and the individuals at the local office are keen to help and are increasingly promoting objectives that do not just relate to growing timber. There is no charge for their visit or advice or for the felling licence. For a great deal more information, see the Forestry Commission advice on tree felling.
The Forestry Commission controls tree felling by issuing felling licences. Felling trees without a licence, where one would have been required, is an offence.
Anyone can apply for a one, but it must be issued in the name of the owner or lessee of the property. You can read the full government guidance and your local Forestry Commission team can provide additional help and support.
There are exemptions, some felling does not require a licence, including a personal allowance. In any calendar quarter, you may fell up to 5 cubic metres (m3) of growing trees on your property, without a felling licence, as long as no more than 2m3 are sold. 5m3 is a volume roughly equivalent to a standard sized builders skip. Other exemptions include trees of a small diameter and the felling of a tree necessary for the prevention of danger or the prevention or abatement of a nuisance (please check the detailed wording as it is quite specific).