FORESTRY bosses in Wales will soon be able to condition, amend, suspend, or revoke a felling licences for the first time. 

The new Forestry Act powers, which come in to effect from April 1, will also allow licence holders to apply to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to amend their licence.

The previous Forestry Act 1967 did not allow conditions to be added to felling licences that would help to ensure the integrity of protected sites, protected species, or other sensitive elements of the environment.

This, NRW officials say, may have led to a felling licence being granted that could have negatively impacted the environment, contravening other environmental legislation, such as the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.

NRW has now published guidance ahead of the law change. 

Stephen Attwood, regulatory team leader for Natural Resources Wales, said: “We’re really pleased to be able share the publication of the guidance, 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.”

Under the previous Forestry Act, NRW also had no powers to amend, suspend or revoke a licence that had been granted, in the event that something about that licenced activity became unacceptable (for example, a forestry disease affecting a species choice in restocking). 

The new amendments will help to formalise compliance with felling licence conditions and address inconsistencies within the current legislation.

The new powers are similar to those already held by the forestry authorities in Scotland, NRW says. 

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.”