Report suspected illegal tree felling

If you suspect anyone of illegal felling then you can check if permission exists and, if necessary, report the incident to the Forestry Commission.

Applies to England

When a felling licence is required

Before anyone can cut down trees, they may need a felling licence from the Forestry Commission. Our booklet Tree felling: getting permission provides an overview of when a felling licence is required.

In some circumstances, exceptions to the need for a felling licence exist, or other permissions may apply that allow felling to proceed. Examples of where tree felling does not require a felling licence from the Forestry Commission are:

  • felling trees in gardens, churchyards or a public open space
  • felling trees required to prevent the spread of a quarantine pest or disease, as authorised by a statutory plant health notice (SPHN)
  • felling trees with a diameter less than 8cm (the width of baked bean can) at a height of 1.3m on the main stem
  • trees growing in inner London boroughs

Also, up to 5 cubic meters of timber (approximately 4 tonnes depending on tree species / a stack of timber the size of a small car) may be felled each calendar quarter without a felling licence.

For more information on exemptions:

Checks to make before you report suspected illegal felling

If you suspect tree felling does not have the necessary permission, and may be an illegal felling incident, there are checks you can do before reporting the incident to the Forestry Commission.

Check if there is an approved felling licence in place

You can do this by using the Forestry Commission’s Land Information Search (LIS) map browser and search the area you are concerned about for a felling licence. The LIS map works best in Google Chrome but is supported by most internet browsers. There is a simple guide to help you load and use the map browser data.

You can check if a felling application has recently been approved by looking at the Forestry Commission’s public register of new planting and tree felling.

If you have any concerns that felling is not in accordance with the licence, then contact the local Administrative Hub office.

Check if tree felling is part of infrastructure work

Highways authorities, energy network companies and railway authorities, for example, have their own powers to fell trees or authorise others to do so. If the tree felling appears to be linked to network management, check with the relevant authority to see if they have authorised any work.

If you made these checks and still have concerns that tree felling should have permission, you can report the incident to the Forestry Commission.

Making a report

If you suspect an illegal felling incident, you can contact your local Forestry Commission Administrative or Area office.

Help us investigate your report by providing as much of the following as possible:

  • the exact location of the incident: we need a property or site name and Ordnance Survey Grid reference, or post code
  • who is doing the work
  • how we can contact them
  • the type of land: for example, woodland, farmland, in a hedgerow, in a residential area or caravan site, derelict land, or some other site
  • the tools being used for the felling: for example, chainsaws or heavy machinery
  • if the felled trees or timber are still on site
  • the date the felling started and if it is still happening
  • photographs of the felling work, or the site

Please provide your contact details. You can choose to make your report anonymous, but providing your details can help our investigators gather information to secure any subsequent enforcement action we might take.

We will only use your personal information to contact you about the activities you are reporting. We will not share your personal information without your consent unless legally obliged. We will retain your personal information while we carry out our investigations and any follow up actions, and for up to 12 months afterwards.

You can find full details on how we handle personal information in our Personal Information Charter.

What could happen if a tree is cut down without a licence?

If no felling licence, exemption to the need for a licence, or other valid permission is in place:

  • all parties involved in the tree felling can be prosecuted for felling without a licence, resulting in an unlimited fine
  • the Forestry Commission can, in certain circumstances, serve a Restocking Notice to re-stock the land concerned, (or any other land as may be agreed), regardless of whether or not a prosecution takes place; the person served must maintain the replacement trees for up to 10 years
  • the Forestry Commission may issue an Enforcement Notice for non-compliance with restocking requirements of either a felling licence or a Restocking Notice. This means action may be taken to meet the conditions previously set. It is an offence not to comply with an Enforcement Notice and upon conviction, can result in the court imposing an unlimited fine, and/or issuing a Restocking Order
  • a Restocking Order will require the person to comply with the restocking conditions of the preceding Enforcement Notice (and Restocking Notice / Felling Licence). Failure to comply with a Restocking Order may be held as a contempt of court and be punishable with a further fine or custodial sentence
  • Restocking Notices and Enforcement Notices may also be listed on the Local Land Charges register by the Forestry Commission, which is commonly checked by conveyancers when land is bought or sold
  • if anyone sells illegally felled timber, they might be committing an offence under the Timber and Timber Products (Placing on the Market) Regulations 2013. A breach of these regulations means that an authorised inspector can seize the illegally felled timber. Anyone convicted of an offence under these regulations could get an unlimited fine and/or prison sentence
  • the Forestry Commission may issue guidance or a warning to those involved in accordance with our enforcement policy. We will retain a record of the activity to promote regulatory compliance and to support future regulatory and/or enforcement activity.
Published 9 July 2018
Last updated 1 January 2024 + show all updates
  1. Cross Compliance rules ended on 31 December 2023. Updated content to reflect this by removing sections no longer of relevance.

  2. Updated to reflect changes which come into force 1st January 2023 on the penalties for illegal felling have changed

  3. This page has been updated with information on when a felling licence is required, checks to make before you report a suspected illegal felling, how to make a report and what could happen if a tree is cut down without a licence.

  4. First published.