Purchasers of woodland with planning permission in place should examine the conditions carefully to ensure they meet requirements and consult the Local Planning Authority (LPA) regarding plans for any development over and above that existing at point of sale.
Existing planning consent can have a significant bearing on the woodland; the conditions may be designed to maintain sustainable, resilient woodland and if the purchaser wants to carry out works to trees, consent may be needed even if a planning application is not. A felling licence or an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) may be required.
Planning permission is not required for forestry work except where a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is in place. It is required for non-forestry uses of land or buildings or any other development.
Permitted Development in woodland
Buildings required for use in connection with forestry purposes are allowed under permitted development: they can include sheds, stores, or offices. Hobby forestry comes under this umbrella; there is no requirement that the forestry must operate as a trade or business. To qualify as permitted development, a building cannot be used as a dwelling, be within 25 metres of a classified road and must be “reasonably necessary” for forestry purposes. Permitted buildings must be designed for their purpose: a building capable of providing overnight accommodation will require a formal planning application.
Owners are allowed occasional overnight stays in their woodland under permitted development legislation. On a holding of over five acres, up to three caravans can be sited at any one time if the site is not used for this purpose for over 28 days in a year.
Providing that it is not for residential use, it may be possible to use a caravan for forestry purposes, such as storage, shelter for workers or as an office as it falls outside planning controls. The caravan must be under the size limit: 60 feet long, 20 feet wide and 10 feet high. There is an allowance for forestry workers to live in caravans in woods to carry out seasonal work.
Installing an access track is also a permitted development providing that it is for forestry purposes and not recreation.
Even if a scheme comes under permitted development, the LPA must be contacted beforehand via the Prior Notification Procedure so that it can be verified. The LPA will assess the effects of the development upon the surrounding area and may request further details.
Factors to consider when owning woodland with planning consents
Felling trees on development sites
Such work requires a felling licence from the Forestry Commission unless an exemption applies. Where full planning permission is granted and standing trees impede the approved development, there is no need to specify the trees to be felled in the application, however, to fell standing trees outside the approved footprint of a building requires clarification in the planning application and permission must be approved. A licence may include a replanting requirement.
Tree Preservation Orders (TPO’s)
LPA’s administer TPO’s and felling a tree with an order on it requires planning permission or a felling licence. Breaching the regulations may result in a Notice being issued requiring the land to be restocked with trees which must be maintained for 10 years.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
The local authority may require an EIA if a proposed scheme impacts on wildlife and habitat. If an EIA is if not required, consent may still be needed if the scheme involves afforestation, deforestation or creating forest roads.
Commercial options to consider in woodland
Woodlands are viewed as suitable areas for commercial recreation; whilst permitted development rights exist for the benefit of the forestry industry, the government wants to encourage woodland-based enterprises that add to rural diversification.
Enterprises such as logging and sawing tree trunks on a small scale may not require consent, but larger operations might: for clarification, consulting the LPA.