New laws coming into force from April 2024 give NRW new powers to amend felling licences in Wales

This week, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) released new guidelines under the Forestry Act, which grants it enhanced authority to modify, suspend, or revoke felling licenses in Wales. These enhancements also allow license holders to request amendments to their licenses from NRW.

Effective from 1 April 2024, these expanded powers enable NRW to more effectively safeguard wildlife and the environment during tree-felling activities. The prior Forestry Act of 1967 lacked provisions for incorporating conditions into felling licenses that would protect critical sites, species, or other sensitive environmental aspects. This gap in the legislation could result in licenses being issued that might harm the environment or breach other environmental laws, such as the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.

Previously, NRW did not have the authority to alter, pause, or cancel an issued license, even if the licensed activity later became problematic, such as the emergence of a forestry disease impacting species selection for replanting.

The recent amendments aim to ensure adherence to felling license conditions and rectify discrepancies in the existing law. The newly issued guidance details these conditions and provides applicants with clearer information on how they will be implemented.

It is available to view here:

Natural Resources Wales / Woodlands and forests

The new powers are similar to the powers already held by the forestry authorities in Scotland.

Stephen Attwood, Regulatory Team Leader for Natural Resources Wales said:

We’re really pleased to be able share the publication of the guidance today, which will help us to better safeguard habitats and species in Wales and provide protection from environmental damage during felling operations.

Throughout the process of developing the guidance, it was important to us that we were engaging  with the forestry industry and our stakeholder group, and we would like to thank them for their feedback throughout this process which has been invaluable.

Many applicants who apply for a felling licence with us do not have a professional forestry background. The addition of these conditions have brought the standards that are required to protect the environment in line with existing UK Forestry Standard and all relevant Environmental Legislation,  making it clearer and easier to understand.

Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said:

I would like to thank all those who have helped to develop this practical guidance.

The new guidance sets out the measured approach that NRW will take to the use of these new powers which are important in the better protection of wildlife and the environment during felling operations.

You can check to see whether you need a felling licence on NRWs website:  Natural Resources Wales / Check if you need a tree felling licence