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Farmers now need a licence to cut down trees on their lands... but there are exemptions



In some cases, trees can be felled without a licence and no prior notification is required.

In some cases, trees can be felled without a licence and no prior notification is required.

In some cases, trees can be felled without a licence and no prior notification is required.

A couple of months ago, I explained that a tree felling licence is required if you wish to fell trees. I described the procedure how to apply under the new Forestry Act 2014.

When I say this to a farmer, their eyes tend to glaze over…

But when I mention Section 19 of the same Act allowing for a range of exemptions, then the same farmer can seem to perk up very quickly.

In some cases, trees can be felled without a licence and no prior notification is required.Below are some examples.

For use on the farm

You can fell a total of up to 15 cubic metres (m3) of timber per year for use on your own farm, provided that the tree is not growing in a forest, is not part of a decorative avenue or ring of trees, is less than 150 years old and that each tree has a volume of less than 3 m3.

However, there are exceptions to this exemption (this is getting complicated!). This exemption does not apply if for instance, the trees are growing within a historic monument, archaeological area or within a SAC, SPA or NHA.

Estimating the correct volume can be fairly tricky though! Page 6 of the DAFM's Tree Felling Licence Application Guidance Notes explains how you can do this.

These guidance notes can be downloaded from or

Dangerous trees

You can fell a tree outside a forest within ten metres of a public road if you have a well-founded opinion that the tree is in a dangerous condition.

A tree near a house

You can fell a tree that is growing less than 30 metres from a building. This exemption does not apply if the building was built after the tree.

Young saplings

You can remove self-sown, young saplings that are less than five years old from an agricultural field. Typical examples would include alder, willow, blackthorn or aspen popping up in a field.

Hedgerow trees

You can fell a hedgerow tree; provided that the tree has a Diameter at Breast Height of less than 20cm. DBH is always measured at 1.3 metres above the ground.

Planning permission

You can remove trees as specified in your planning permission.

Short Rotation Coppice

You can also fell either willow or poplar grown for fuel under a short rotation coppice.

Various species

Hawthorn and blackthorn outside a forest are exempt; as well as apple, pear, plum or damson if they are less than 150 years old.

Various agencies

Trees can be felled without a licence

If it needs to be removed by the emergency services. For instance, when a road accident has occurred.

With the permission of the Minister or Teagasc, as part of a demonstration or for scientific purposes.

If a tree is deemed to be dangerous on account of its age, condition or location in the opinion of the planning authority.

By a public authority in the performance of its statutory functions.

Prior notification required

In other cases, you need to inform the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in advance.

This allows the Forest Service to decide if the trees are indeed exempt. These scenarios are identified in the Act by the use of the text "in the opinion of the Minister".

A typical example would be Christmas trees or trees planted and managed for its foliage. Such trees are exempt but the Forest Service must be notified in advance.

The Forest Service must also be notified in advance if trees need to be removed to control or prevent the spread of fire, pest or disease or to protect the integrity of the forest gene pool.

This is also the case if a tree or trees need to be removed for forest survey purposes or to mitigate a threat to a habitat or other important environmental resource.

Other Acts

Trees can be felled without a licence under other legislation as well. Examples include the Inland Fisheries Act, Gas Act, Communications Regulation Act, etc.

The Planning and Development Acts or Wildlife Acts may restrict or prevent tree felling. In such cases, none of the exemptions discussed here apply.

A good example is if a Tree Preservation Order is in place: such a tree cannot be touched without the consent of the planning authority.

I'm sure you won't be surprised but it is the responsibility of the landowner or the person felling the tree to ensure they are acting within the law.

The best advice is: if in doubt, ask. Don't assume.

Indo Farming

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