ARBORISTS can once again use red diesel in machines and appliances for all tree work – ending the "detrimental" impact of a year-long ruling. 

In a major win for the Arboricultural Association, which has spent months lobbying ministers, HMRC has confirmed the sector will fall under the same rebated fuel rules that have applied to forestry since 2022's tax change. 

That saw the use of red diesel ruled out for use in most machines, vehicles and appliances, with sawmills and wood processors amongst those hardest hit. And while forestry clung onto its exempted status, arb did not. 

READ MORE: Red diesel rules have changed: What's different? Who's affected?

But the update will reinstate the use of rebated fuels in everything but vehicles for the industry. 

Arboricultural Association CEO John Parker said: “This is great news for the arboricultural sector and will ensure that the changes to red diesel usage which were introduced in 2022 will no longer have a detrimental impact on arborists.

"The Association is delighted to have successfully influenced government on this matter, and many thanks are due to HMRC and Treasury officials who were so open to listen to the concerns of our members." 

Forestry Journal:  John Parker hailed the move John Parker hailed the move (Image: EA)

As part of the reforms introduced in April 2022, machines and appliances could continue to use rebated fuel for purposes relating to horticulture and forestry. 

However, HMRC’s interpretation of horticulture and forestry did not include some aspects of arboriculture, which was not actually mentioned in the new guidelines. For example, tending trees in parks and gardens was accepted as a purpose relating to horticulture but tending trees in streets and housing estates was not.

Also, the upkeep and management of forests was only accepted as a purpose relating to forestry when growing and harvesting timber. 

This created unintended difficulties for arboriculture businesses whose work required them to use their machines and appliances for a combination of allowed and no longer allowed purposes. But the new ruling should put a stop to this. 

John, who met with ministers last April, added: "It is also very positive to see that government has clearly acknowledged the importance of arboriculture as a key profession in delivering its environmental and levelling up ambitions.”

Forestry Journal: The red diesel changes were implemented by Rishi Sunak when he was Chancellor The red diesel changes were implemented by Rishi Sunak when he was Chancellor

When the initial changes were announced in 2020 by then Chancellor Rishi Sunak, he said: “I have heard the concerns about agriculture particularly from the NFU and rural colleagues and have decided that agriculture [which includes forestry] will retain the relief.

"I’ll also keep the relief for rail, for domestic heating and there will be no impact on fishing.”