Forestry project checks: constraints – GOV.UK

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This page tells you how to identify common constraints and designations within your forestry project’s proposal area and sets out what you must consider or do in relation to individual constraints.
Use this page to help you:
Use this page alongside:
This page walks you through the considerations and actions you should take in relation to forestry projects that involve specific constraints. In addition to these specific constraints, there are some considerations and actions that you need to undertake in relation to all forestry projects.
Please see the Forestry project checks: all projects page for more information.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser to look at environmental information about your land. Within this browser, you can use the Forestry Commission’s Land Information Search tool to create a report that shows common constraints and designations on, and information about, your land.
Other important environmental information, such as information on Higher Level Stewardship and Agricultural Land Classifications, can be found on DEFRA’s MAGIC map.
Once you’ve found out what constraints and designations are on your land, or might be affected by it, use this quick guide page to see whether you need to engage with stakeholders, apply for a licence, or get consent or other permission prior to carrying out your project.
MAGIC and the Forestry Commission map browser will not show every constraint on your land. Not all data is nationally mapped, for example, Tree Preservation Orders and Conservation Areas.
Using MAGIC and the Forestry Commission Map Browser should be part of your wider due diligence, which should also include local records checks – see Forestry project checks: all projects.
Use the Forestry Commission Map Browser Layer: Targeting and scoring > CS Water – Water Quality – Acidification
Forestry is known to affect water acidification and so it is important to manage forestry within vulnerable areas to ensure acidification is not exacerbated. This is particularly important in relation to large-scale conifer planting. Check Forest Research’s Acid Vulnerable Catchment (AVC) mapping, which marks areas that are ‘at risk’ or marked as ‘fail’.
If you are planning an afforestation project, AVCs are excluded from ‘low risk land’ for the purposes of forestry EIA.
If your proposal is in an area that is ‘at risk’ or ‘failing’, refer to Forest Research’s Practice Guidance Managing forests in acid sensitive water catchments to identify whether you’re required to carry out a critical load assessment.
If significant acidification of soils could present an issue, you must engage potential stakeholders, such as the Environment Agency or local water authorities. The Forestry Commission will take the Environment Agency’s views on your proposal, and suggested mitigation, into account in determining your application.
Use Defra’s MAGIC map Layer: Landscape > Landscape Classifications > Agricultural Land Classification – Provisional (England).
Agricultural land in England and Wales is classed using Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) from 1 (best) to 5 (very poor quality). Best and most versatile agricultural land is in Classes 1, 2 and 3a. It is important for identifying land that may be best preserved for food production.
If you are planning an afforestation project, the best and most versatile agricultural land is excluded from ‘low risk land’ for the purposes of forestry EIA.
The data on Defra’s MAGIC map is from before 1988. If you believe the data to be incorrect, you should raise your concerns with Natural England. Natural England also has a series of Regional Agricultural Land Classification maps, which may be of use.
If you are unsure about whether your proposal is likely to affect best and most versatile agricultural land, you can contact Natural England for further advice. However, you do not need any additional consents in relation to forestry works on this land type. Loss of agricultural production may be taken into consideration by the Forestry Commission in determining your application.
Use Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected sites and landscapes > Ancient Woodlands
Use Defra’s MAGIC map Layer: Habitats and species > Woodland > Ancient Woodland (England)
Ancient woodlands are areas in England that have been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD. Ancient woodland includes ancient semi-natural woodland (ASNW) and plantations on ancient woodland sites (PAWS) – also known as ancient replanted woodland.
The value of an ancient woodland lies in its pristine, undisturbed soils, which provide a unique habitat. Many of the trees standing within an ancient woodland are often not particularly old.
The UK Forestry Standard places restrictions on the scope of works that should be undertaken on ancient woodland sites.
Current government policy on managing ancient woodlands is set out in the policy document ‘Managing ancient and native woodland in England’.
Ancient woodland is not listed as a land sensitivity type for forestry EIA purposes, however, the Forestry Commission will apply government policy on ancient woodland when assessing applications made in relation to them. Additionally, some ancient woodland sites are subject to other constraints, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSS) designation.
Ancient woodland over 0.5 hectares is mapped by Natural England and can be found on MAGIC and on the Forestry Commission map browser.
The Forestry Commission will take into account ancient woodland when deciding upon your proposal. You can contact your local Forestry Commission Woodland Officer for advice to ensure that your proposal is designed to account for ancient woodland.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected sites and landscapes > Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
There are 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England. They are designated by Natural England but are often managed by an AONB Conservation Board.
You can read about each AONB designation on the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty website, Landscapes for life. This may make reference to trees or woodlands that are important to the area.
AONBs are considered ‘sensitive areas’ for forestry EIA purposes.
Ensure that your proposal is complementary to the aims, objectives and characteristics of the AONB, and engage the AONB Conservation Board for advice where necessary.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected sites and landscapes > National Parks
The Norfolk Broads are a National Park (see National Parks). The Broads are considered a ‘sensitive area’ for forestry EIA purposes.
Refer to the guidance on National Parks on this page.
Contact the relevant local authority archaeology/historic environment service to discover if there are any known disused burial grounds within your proposal area.
Human remains within burial grounds are protected from disturbance or removal by legislation. These include known prehistoric, Roman, medieval and post medieval burial grounds that are not legally consecrated. These are controlled by secular legislation.
Burial grounds are not listed as a land sensitivity type for forestry EIA purposes. However, relevant legislation must be complied by the applicant and their existence may still be considered by the Forestry Commission before determining an application.
An exhumation licence is required from the Ministry of Justice before trees can be planted or quarries excavated on burial grounds protected by secular legislation. Depending on the level of ground disturbance involved, an exhumation licence may be required ahead of road construction and deforestation.
Further guidance
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected sites and landscapes > CRoW2000 – S4 Registered Common Land
Common land is land where there are ‘Rights of Common’. These rights often date back hundreds of years and grant commoners (typically the public) rights of access. These rights were often originally for the purpose of grazing animals, although now they are usually used for recreation.
Commoners have a legal right to access common land at all times unless access is legally restricted. Restricting access to common land requires the approval of the Secretary of State, although applications for restrictions are made in the first instance to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).
The bar as to what ‘restricts access’ is set extremely high i.e. even small projects may require Secretary of State approval. Afforestation is likely to be deemed to restrict access. Felling is likely not to be deemed to restrict access, but you will need to consider how you will manage people’s right to access land where you are undertaking potentially hazardous felling activities.
The policy and legal framework for common land is complex so it is good to seek advice at an early stage. The Open Spaces Society (OSS), who are the general experts on Common land, have information on their site, as does GOV.UK. You may also wish to contact the Foundation for Common Land (FCL) or PINS directly for their initial thoughts.
If you are planning an afforestation proposal, common land is excluded from ‘low risk land’ for the purposes of forestry EIA.
Common land is also CROW land, also known as ‘open access land’ (see CROW land).
Forest works involving afforestation or restocking will likely need consent from the Secretary of State if they impede access to common land.
It is good practice to engage with the Open Spaces Society (OSS), and the Foundation for Common Land (FCL) about your proposal. The Natural England booklet ‘A Common Purpose’ tells you how to conduct community engagement (e.g. with OSS, local communities) for any works on Common land.
Contact your local planning authority (LPA). They will be able to send you further information and may have self-service online maps available on their website.
Conservation areas are areas that have been designated because of their special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.
Many trees in conservation areas are also protected by Tree Preservation Orders (see Tree Preservation Order).
You should always check for conservation areas before considering any felling proposal.
Conservation areas are not listed as a land sensitivity area for forestry EIA purposes, but may still be considered by the Forestry Commission before determining an application. Declaration of a conservation area is mandatory for felling licence applications.
You should contact the local authority’s planning or building conservation department to identify if your proposal lies within a Conservation Area.
If you are carrying out tree felling works that do not require a felling licence, you must give the LPA at least six weeks’ notice before carrying out any felling, topping, lopping or uprooting work on trees in a conservation area. However, you cannot give notice more than two years before the works being carried out. In this time, the LPA may decide to give the tree a Tree Preservation Order to protect the trees.
If you are carrying out tree felling works that do require a felling licence, you do not need to give the LPA any official notification of the felling works. However, early engagement is often beneficial to resolving potential issues before they arise.
Use Defra’s MAGIC map Layers:
Use Natural England Open Data: search for ‘CRoW Act 2000 – Section 16 Dedicated Land’
CROW land is land defined by the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000, hence its name. It includes open country (mountain, moor, heath and down), Common land and land that has been voluntarily (but permanently) ‘dedicated’ by the owner.
The public have a legal right of access at all times – known informally as ‘right to roam’.
While Common land is subject to the ‘right to roam’ under the CROW Act, you may need separate permissions to restrict access (see Common land), as both Common land rights and CROW rights can exist on top of each other on the same piece of land.
CROW land is not listed as a land sensitivity area for forestry EIA purposes, but may still be considered by the Forestry Commission before determining an application.
You will need to engage the relevant Local Access Forum on your proposal. When you do this, make sure your project plan describes how you will manage public access during the works.
The public have a legal right to access CROW land at all times, unless a statutory closure (such as a ‘Direction’) is in effect.
If you are felling, you may require a Direction to restrict access (for example, close the site to the public for safety). If you want to close CROW land for any length of time, you should contact the Natural England Open Access Contact Centre.
Afforestation projects on CROW land are exempt from CROW access rights for 12 months from the first soil disturbance (e.g. first tree planted in the ground) associated with planting. Access rights resume after 12 months.
If you are on tenanted farmland your lease should identify whether the freeholder of the land is a government department, the Duchy of Lancaster or Cornwall, the Monarch or held in trust for any of these bodies.
A large proportion of English land is Crown land, land which is owned by the government or the crown. This includes land managed by bodies such as the Ministry of Defence, the Forestry Commission and the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall.
If you are a tenant on Crown land and you apply for a felling licence, you will need to obtain approval of your restocking proposal from the Crown body from whom you lease the land, and include this in your felling application. This requirement only applies to restocking, and therefore application for unconditional felling licences do not need approval from the Crown body.
If you are the owner of Crown land (e.g. the Ministry of Defence) you do not require a felling licence. However, you are not exempt from the potential need for a forestry EIA.
Crown land is not listed as a land sensitivity type for forestry EIA purposes.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Forestry Commission > Felling Licence Applications (Post May 2018) and Felling Licence Applications (Pre May 2018)
Felling licences generally provide permissions that last for 5 or 10 years. They can be unconditional or conditional (meaning that restocking is required after felling). Conditional licences require restocked trees to be protected for 10 years after planting or natural regeneration.
If there is an existing felling licence in place on the land, you should make sure you are aware of its conditions (these are usually to restock the felled area within a set timeframe and to maintain those trees for 10 years). You should then check that your new proposal does not conflict with the conditions of the licence.
The Forestry Commission does not have the statutory power to amend felling licence conditions. In exceptional circumstances, where there is a strong silvicultural reason for doing so, the Forestry Commission may agree not to enforce the conditions of a licence so long as other agreed actions (for instance an alternative restocking solution) are carried out. The seeking of, or enacting of, planning permission will not be considered a silvicultural reason.
Felling licences are not listed as a land sensitivity type for forestry EIA purposes.
Contact the Forestry Commission if you are unsure of how your proposal might conflict with an existing licence.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Forestry Commission > Countryside Stewardship 2015 case boundary, EWGS Case Boundary, FWPS Case Boundary, Woodland Grant Scheme Mk3, Woodland Carbon Fund.
Use Defra’s MAGIC map Layers: Land-based Schemes > Agri-Environment Schemes >
This list is not exhaustive. Other grants may be added to these layers. See also Higher Level Stewardship.
Grant scheme obligations can last many decades. A breach of these obligations can result in the original payments being reclaimed in full.
Your proposal may conflict with existing grant scheme rules and you should check with the grant administrator to see whether this is so.
In certain situations, such as where there is a tree health issue, you may be able to claim Force Majeure in relation to your grant scheme. This will release you from your scheme obligations. The rules on Force Majeure vary from scheme to scheme.
Grants are not listed as a land sensitivity type for forestry EIA purposes, but may still be considered by the Forestry Commission before determining an application.
Contact the grant administrator to check whether the grant scheme is still in obligation (i.e. its conditions still need to be met). If so, check that your proposal does not contravene these obligations. If you need to claim Force Majeure (see above), be aware that there are deadlines to do so, and they vary from scheme to scheme.
For Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes, contact the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).
For all other schemes, contact the Forestry Commission in the first instance.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected Sites and Landscapes > Historic Environment > Heritage Coast
Heritage Coasts were established to conserve the best stretches of undeveloped coast in England. There are currently 32 Heritage Coasts in England.
Heritage Coasts are defined (by an agreement between Natural England and the relevant maritime local authority) rather than designated, so do they not have their own protections.
However, most Heritage Coasts lie within National Parks and an AONB.
Heritage Coasts are not listed as a land sensitivity type for forestry EIA purposes, but may still be considered by the Forestry Commission before determining an application.
Engage with Natural England and the local maritime authority for advice when designing your proposal to ensure it complements the characteristics of the Heritage Coast.
If the Heritage Coast lies within a National Park or AONB, contact the National Park Authority or AONB Conservation Board for advice.
How your proposal affects the local landscape will be a priority consideration for projects on a Heritage Coast. Refer to the UK Forestry Standard’s landscape guidelines (part 6.4) when designing your proposal.
Use Defra’s MAGIC map Layers: Land-based Schemes > Agri-Environment Schemes > Countryside Stewardship > Environmental Stewardship Agreements (England)
Higher Level Stewardship is part of Environmental Stewardship, an agri-environment scheme funding farmers and landowners to deliver environmental management on their land. Land in Higher Level Stewardship aims to deliver significant environmental benefits in high-priority situations and areas.
If you are planning an afforestation project, land under Higher Level Stewardship is excluded from ‘low risk land’ for the purposes of forestry EIA.
If your land is in Higher Level Stewardship, you may need to get in touch with the Rural Payments Agency about your forestry proposal, particularly if you are applying for a different grant scheme.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layers: Targeting and scoring > HS2
The HS2 (High Speed 2) project for a new north-south railway has affected landowners along its route. The project is split into phases. Phase 1 is from London to the West Midlands. Phase 2A from the West Midlands to Crewe, and Phase 2B from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds.
The safeguarded zone associated with each of these phases marks the area of the project that is protected from any conflicting development. Landowners within the 25 mile buffer zone may be eligible for certain woodland grants.
Land affected by HS2 is not listed as a land sensitivity area for forestry EIA purposes, but may still be considered by the Forestry Commission before determining an application.
Read Operations Note 47 – High Speed 2(HS2) rail – impacts on woodland management activity before designing your felling, grant or other forestry proposal.
HS2 Ltd, the company constructing the HS2 railway, can undertake felling works within the safeguarded zone without requiring a felling licence.
If landowners within the safeguarded zone have a felling licence, they can enact their licence until HS2 Ltd takes control of the land, after which the landowner needs permission to do so from HS2 Ltd.
Landowners in the safeguarded zone with woodland created under woodland creation grants may need to claim Force Majeure if their woodland will be lost to the HS2 project.
Contact your local council to see if there is one in place.
The Local Nature Recovery Strategy aims to restore and link up habitats at a local authority level. If your local council has its Local Nature Recovery Strategy in place, it will produce a statement of biodiversity priorities and a local habitat map. The map will show county wildlife sites, ‘local’ nature reserves and other areas considered to be important for biodiversity.
Check the strategy statement and map to see whether your project is suitable for the area. For example, an area targeted for peatland restoration in a Local Nature Recovery Strategy may not be suitable for an afforestation project.
Contact your local council if you are unsure.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected Sites and Landscapes > Local nature reserves
‘Local’ nature reserves are designed for people and wildlife and contain wildlife and geological features of special local interest.
‘Local’ nature reserves are defined in Section 15 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. For the purposes of Forestry EIA there are two types of ‘local’ Nature Reserve:
If you are planning an afforestation proposal, ‘local’ nature reserves designated by local authorities are excluded from ‘low risk land’ for the purposes of forestry EIA.
If you are planning an afforestation proposal, ‘local’ nature reserves that are not designated by local authorities are considered a ‘sensitive area’ for forestry EIA purposes.
Look up the ‘local’ nature reserve on Natural England’s Designated Sites page to see whether its declaring authority is a local authority (such as a borough or county) or otherwise (e.g. a National Park Authority or town or parish council). For the purpose of a forestry EIA application, this will establish whether you need to consider the proposal as a ‘sensitive area’ or outside of a ‘low risk area’.
Contact the authority who manage the reserve (e.g. the National Park Authority or the local authority) to find out how you can mitigate any impact from your proposal.
Local Sites will be listed by your Local Environment Record Centre (LERC) or by your local authority.
Local Sites are not statutorily protected but are considered important to their area, either for their biodiversity or their geology. Some are of SSSI quality.
Local Sites are named differently across the country, but include the following:
Local Sites are not considered a land sensitivity area for forestry EIA purposes, but may still be considered by the Forestry Commission before determining an application.
Contact the authority who manage the site to find out how you can mitigate any impact from your proposal. Local Sites are usually monitored and protected by Local Wildlife Site systems, where authorities like The Wildlife Trust and Natural England work in partnership with local authorities to monitor and protect the site.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Data > Targeting and scoring > Low Risk Areas for Woodland Creation
Low risk land is a land sensitivity category for forestry EIA afforestation proposals. It can be used to target afforestation proposals and land acquisitions to areas that are most suited for tree planting. Land best suited to afforestation will most likely get a faster EIA decision from the Forestry Commission.
Low risk land excludes all the following sensitive areas:
Low risk land also excludes:
Your proposal is in the most suitable place for afforestation according to national datasets. However, if you are designing an afforestation proposal on low risk land, you should still check for local, small scale sensitivities in the area, such as important areas of priority habitat not recorded on national datasets, and non-designated local heritage assets.
Use Defra’s MAGIC map Layer: Designations > Land-based Designations > Historic Statutory > Listed Buildings
Listed buildings are designated for their special architectural and historic interest and have statutory protection. It is estimated there are around 500,000 listed buildings in England, details of which can be found on Historic England’s National Heritage List for England.
Listed building consent must be obtained from the local planning authority to demolish a listed building or any part of it, or to alter it in any way which would affect its character inside or out.
Afforestation, deforestation, road and quarry proposals have potential to affect the setting of listed buildings. Listed building are not listed as a land sensitivity area for forestry EIA purposes, but may still be considered by the Forestry Commission before determining an application.
You should contact with Historic England if your proposal has potential to affect the setting of grade I and grade II* listed buildings. The Forestry Commission can provide advice on when to engage Historic England.
Contact the relevant local authority archaeology/historic environment service to discover if there are any known military aircraft crash sites within your proposal area.
Military aircraft crash sites are protected from disturbance by legislation.
Military aircraft crash sites are not listed as a land sensitivity area for forestry EIA purposes but may still be considered by the Forestry Commission before determining an application.
A licence is required from the Ministry of Defence before known military aircraft crash sites can be disturbed.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected Sites and Landscapes > National Nature Reserves
There are currently over 200 National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in England, each containing important habitat and species. The full list of reserves is available on GOV.UK. 
Natural England manages about two thirds of England’s NNRs. The remaining reserves are managed by organisations approved by Natural England, such as the National Trust.
Most NNRs are also SSSIs (see SSSIs).
NNRs are considered a ‘sensitive area’ for forestry EIA purposes.
You should contact Natural England to ensure that your proposal is complementary to the aims and objects of the NNR.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected sites and landscapes > National Parks
There are ten National Parks in England, each managed by their respective National Park Authority.
You can find their details on the National Parks website.
National Parks are considered a ‘sensitive area’ for forestry EIA purposes.
Ensure that your proposal is complementary to the aims, objectives and characteristics of the National Park, and contact the National Park Authority (NPA) for advice where necessary.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Targeting and scoring > Natural England Peat Map
Peat is carbon rich soil that has developed wetlands. Planting trees on peat can result in more carbon being released into the environment than the newly planted trees absorb. Peat may indicate a bog Priority Habitat (see Priority Habitats) such as blanket bog, raised bog or fens. Peat may also be present in smaller quantities in priority habitats such as fragmented heath. Forestry projects on peat therefore need to be carefully considered.
The decision support framework for peatland protection and the establishment of new woodland (Interim) provides a decision framework for landowners considering planting trees that may affect peaty soils. This will be replaced in late 2021 with a Practice Guide which will also feature a decision framework for existing woodland on peatland.
Planting (except low density planting) is unlikely to be approved on peat that is 30cm deep or more, or on any area targeted for peatland restoration in a Local Nature Recovery Strategy.
Planting is unlikely to be approved on peaty soil sites that are also protected sites (such as SSSIs), peaty soil sites that are adjacent to protected sites, or sites that have priority habitats or priority species present. The exception to this is native woodland proposals that have been agreed with Natural England.
Planting will need to follow buffer distance guidance in areas with shallow peat connected to areas of deeper peat or GWDTE (ground water dependent terrestrial ecosystems).
If you are planning an afforestation proposal, peat that is over 50cm in depth is excluded from ‘low risk land’ for the purposes of forestry EIA. However, peat of any depth may be considered by the Forestry Commission in determining your application.
If there is any suspicion of peaty soils on or near your project, you will likely be required to conduct a peat survey and potentially a vegetation survey and organo-mineral soil survey.
Contact Natural England for advice if there is deep peat on or near your proposal to consider whether your proposal includes potential changes that would be regarded as loss or damage. If you are looking to restore peatland habitat in woodland, the Forestry Commission would expect to see endorsement of your proposal from Natural England.
If there is a Local Nature Recovery Strategy in your area, contact your local authority to obtain local habitat maps and find out whether that area is targeted for peatland restoration.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layers: Targeting and scoring > CS Biodiversity – Priority Habitat Network.
Use Defra’s MAGIC map Layer: Habitats and species > Habitats > Priority Habitat Inventory (various)
Priority habitats are officially named ‘Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006) Section 41 habitats of principal importance’. They were formally known as the UK BAP (UK Biodiversity Action Plan) priority habitats. There are 56 recognised habitats, and they include areas of woodland, like lowland mixed deciduous woodland, and open habitats, like lowland meadow or reedbeds.
Some priority habitat (around 40%) is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Some is cared for under Higher Level Stewardship or Countryside Stewardship agreements. However, some does sit outside the protection of all these schemes.
There is a policy presumption against afforestation on Section 41 Priority Habitats. Any afforestation that is approved by the Forestry Commission must be for native woodland only (as this is itself a priority habitat). Refer to Operations Note 43 ‘Principles for afforestation on or near priority habitats’ for guidance on designing your afforestation proposal.
If you are planning an afforestation proposal, Priority Habitats are excluded from ‘low risk land’ for the purposes of forestry EIA.
Natural England can update incorrectly mapped areas of Priority Habitat based on new surveys. Contact Natural England if you believe your proposal’s area to be incorrectly mapped as priority habitat.
For woodland priority habitats contact the Forestry Commission to consider whether your proposal will conform with government policy on priority habitats.
For non-woodland priority habitats (open habitat), you should contact with Natural England to consider whether your proposal includes potential changes to existing priority habitats that would be regarded as loss or damage.
If your proposal is in upland farmland or moorland, you should also be aware of the guidance on protecting breeding waders.
Public rights of way are marked on Ordnance Survey and other maps, and on some council websites. A ‘walk over’ survey should show public rights of way that are not otherwise marked.
Public rights of way include footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways. The local highway authority, which sits within the local council, needs to know if you are conducting works that affect any form of public access. In addition to public rights of way, some land has other public access rights, see open access land (CROW land) or common land.
Public rights of way are not a land sensitivity type for forestry EIA purposes.
If there are any rights of way on your site, you will need to get in touch with the local highway authority – set within the local council. Find your local council.
Other types of access may apply on your land. See the entries on this page for CROW and Common land if your proposal sits on either constraint.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected Sites and Landscapes > Ramsar sites.
Ramsar Sites are wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention.
Ramsar Sites are considered a ‘sensitive area’ for forestry EIA purposes.
You should contact Natural England if your proposal is within the boundary of a Ramsar Site or could affect it.
The Forestry Commission will screen proposals on Ramsar Sites in accordance with the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and may carry out an Appropriate Assessment as part of its Habitats Regulations Assessment. When doing so, the Forestry Commission may ask you to provide further information in relation to your proposal’s potential impact upon the features of the Ramsar Site.
Use Defra’s MAGIC map Layer: Designations > Land-based designations > Historic non-statutory > Registered Battlefield
Registered Battlefields are battlefields that have been designated because of their special historic interest. They are historic non-statutory sites, and there are over 40 of them in England. More details about registered battlefields can be found on Historic England’s National Heritage List for England.
Trees and woodlands that are part of the setting of Registered Battlefields may be protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs).
If you are planning an afforestation proposal, Registered Battlefields are excluded from ‘low risk land’ for the purposes of forestry EIA.
You should contact Historic England about your proposal. They may advise that you must gather further advice from archaeological consultants.
Use Defra’s MAGIC map Layer: Designations > Land-based designations > Historic non-statutory > Registered Parks and Gardens
Registered Parks and Gardens are designed landscape which have been designated by Historic England because of their special historic interest. There are around 1,600 in England, and more information about each of them can be found on Historic England’s National Heritage List for England.
Trees and woodlands within registered gardens and parks may affect other heritage assets like listed buildings. The trees may also be protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) and the park or garden may be part of a Conservation Area.
If you are planning an afforestation proposal, Registered Parks and Gardens are excluded from ‘low risk land’ for the purposes of forestry EIA. 
Contact The Gardens Trust if your proposal is in or affects a Registered Park or Garden.
You should contact Historic England about your proposal only if it is in or has potential to affect the setting of a Grade I or II registered park or garden. They may advise that you must seek further advice from archaeological consultants.
Use Defra’s MAGIC map Layer: Habitats and species > Species > Birds > Important Bird Areas (GB)
The RSPB sponsors important bird areas in the UK. RSPB Important Bird Areas have been recognised as the most important sites for birds in the UK based on the bird numbers and species complements that they hold. They are particularly important for species that congregate in large numbers, such as wintering and passage water birds and breeding sea birds.
If you are planning an afforestation proposal, RSPB Important Bird Areas are excluded from ‘low risk land’ for the purposes of forestry EIA.
You should ensure that you proposal does not adversely affect the RSPB Important Bird Area. You may wish to contact the RSPB about your proposals, particularly in relation to afforestation projects. However, you should note that the RSPB is under no obligation to respond to you.
Use Defra’s MAGIC Map Layer: Designations > Land Based Designations > Non-statutory > RSPB Reserves
The RSPB manages over 170 nature reserves for the benefit of wildlife, and details of each specific reserve can be found on the RSPB website.
RSPB Reserves are not listed as a land sensitivity type for forestry EIA purposes.
You should contact the RSPB on your proposal if you are planning a forestry project on, or near to, a reserve.
Use Defra’s MAGIC map Layer: Designations > Land-based designations > Historic statutory > Scheduled Monuments.
Scheduled Monuments are heritage assets that have been designated because of their national importance. They have statutory protection and work carried out upon them will likely require consent from Historic England.
All Scheduled Monuments are found on Historic England’s National Heritage List for England.
Scheduled Monuments are considered a ‘sensitive area’ for EIA purposes.
You should contact Historic England for advice if your proposal is on, or will affect, a Scheduled Monument or its setting. The Forestry Commission can provide advice on when to engage Historic England on setting.
Before you start work on a project that will directly affect a Scheduled Monument you must apply for Scheduled Monument Consent from the Secretary of State. This is done through an application to Historic England. You must have this consent before any work is carried out.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected Sites and Landscapes > Sites of Special Scientific Interest
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are designated sites managed by Natural England. The sites are protected due to flora, fauna or geological features which are of particular interest to science. They have statutory protection and work carried out upon them may require consent from Natural England.
Most SSSIs are also designated as Special Areas of Conservation or Special Protection Areas.
SSSIs are considered a ‘sensitive area’ for forestry EIA purposes.
You should contact Natural England if your work is within or could affect an SSSI.
Each SSSI has a list of “operations requiring Natural England’s consent” that can be found by looking up the site on Natural England’s designated sites system. Check whether your project’s operations apply. If they do, you must apply for formal consent from Natural England if your work is within the boundary of an SSSI. You must have this consent before any work is carried out.
If you are applying to the Forestry Commission for a grant or felling licence, it is recommended that you provide a completed Supplementary Notice of Operations (SNO) with your application, so that the Forestry Commission can consult Natural England on your behalf. More information about this is set out in Operations Note 27: Natural England consent for work in SSSIs.
Use Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected sites and landscapes > Special Areas of Conservation
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are areas in the UK that protect one or more special habitats or species. Along with Special Protection Areas, they form the UK’s national site network, part of the wider Emerald network of Areas of Special Conservation Interest. There are over 200 in England.
Natural England, the statutory body for SACs, has conservation objectives for each of the SACs in England. These are a good reference point for designing your proposal.
SACs are considered a ‘sensitive area’ for forestry EIA purposes.
All SACs are also designated as SSSIs.
You should contact Natural England if your work is within or could affect a SAC and follow the guidance on this page for SSSIs (See SSSIs).
Under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, the Forestry Commission will screen your site and may carry out an Appropriate Assessment as part of its Habitats Regulations Assessment. As part of this process you may be required to provide the Forestry Commission with further information in relation to how your proposal will impact upon the SAC’s features.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Protected Sites and Landscapes > Special Protection Areas
Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are protected areas for birds in the UK. Along with Special Areas of Conservation, they form the UK’s national site network, part of the wider Emerald network of Areas of Special Conservation Interest.
Natural England, the statutory body for SPAs, has conservation objectives for each of the SPAs in England. These are a good reference point for designing your proposal.
SPAs are considered a ‘sensitive area’ for forestry EIA purposes.
All SPAs are also designated as SSSIs.
You should contact Natural England if your work is within or could affect an SPA and follow the guidance on this page for SSSIs (See SSSIs).
Under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, the Forestry Commission will screen your site and may carry out an Appropriate Assessment as part of its Habitats Regulations Assessment. As part of this process, you may be required to provide the Forestry Commission with further information in relation to how your proposal will impact upon the SPA’s features.
Contact your local planning authority (LPA). They may have online maps available on their local authority website, and they will be able to send you further information. They should also be contacted to check for Conservation Areas.
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is an order made by a Local Planning Authority in England to protect specific trees, groups of trees, areas of trees or woodlands in the interests of amenity.
Felling a tree subject to a TPO will require a felling licence from the Forestry Commission, or if the works are exempt from the need for a felling licence (for instance being very small in scale), TPO consent from the Local Planning Authority. Trees that are subject to a live Statutory Plant Health Notice (SPHN) are exempt from the requirement for TPO consent.
You should always check with the Local Planning Authority for TPOs before considering any felling proposal. TPOs are not listed as a land sensitivity type for forestry EIA purposes.
If you are applying for a felling licence, you will not need a separate permission from the Local Planning Authority for the TPO as the Forestry Commission will consult with them on your behalf before granting a licence.
In some cases, the Forestry Commission may refer your felling licence application, in whole or in part (the parts covered by a TPO), to the LPA. The LPA will then determine your application outcome without any more input from the Forestry Commission.
Only where a felling licence is not required (because an exemption to the need for a felling licence applies), must you apply to the LPA directly for consent.
More information about felling licences and TPOs is set out in Operations Note 52: Tree Preservation Orders and trees in conservation areas.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Forestry Commission > Phytophthora ramorum risk zones > Zone 1, Zone 2 & Zone 3
Phytophthora ramorum (P. ramorum) is a pathogen that has killed millions of England’s larch trees and also affects a number of other tree and plant species.
England is split into three risk zones, based on the risk of spreading the pathogen P. ramorum in each, with Risk Zone 1 being highest risk.
For felling licence applications, if you want to fell larch within a P. ramorum Risk Zone 1, and apply after 1 October, the Forestry Commission will ask you to agree to an extension of the processing times for your application until after 30 June. This allows the Forestry Commission to assess the condition of the trees and decide whether a felling licence can be approved or if a Statutory Plant Health Notice should be issued to fell the trees. More information is found in Operations Note 23: Processing felling applications involving larch species.
Consideration should be given to restocking with suspectable species within Zone 1. Tree Health zones are not listed as a land sensitivity type for forestry EIA purposes but may still be considered by the Forestry Commission before determining an application.
If you are applying for a felling licence and will be felling larch in Risk Zone 1, apply for your licence as usual. If you apply after 1 October in any year, you should expect to receive correspondence from the Forestry Commission asking you to agree to an extension.
Use the Forestry Commission map browser Layer: Historic Environment > World Heritage Site.
Use Defra’s Magic Map Layer: Historic Statutory > World Heritage Sites (buffer zones and World Heritage Site)
World Heritage Sites are cultural and/or natural heritage sites recognised for their outstanding universal value.
There are 19 World Heritage Sites completely or partially in England.
World Heritage Sites are marked with a designated buffer zone around them on mapping tools. You must consider these buffer zones when looking at your proposal.
Specific assets within World Heritage Sites are often designated (for example, as Scheduled Monuments, or as Registered Parks and Gardens).
World Heritage Sites and their buffer zones are considered a ‘sensitive area’ for forestry EIA purposes.
You should contact Historic England about your proposal. You are also encouraged to contact the relevant World Heritage Site Steering Group.
Further guidance
If you have any questions, you can contact your nearest Forestry Commission area office.
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