In England, Scotland and Wales, the Forestry Commission (FC) is responsible for the general control of felling. A felling licence is required for the felling of growing trees with a number of exceptions, including:
- trees with diameter less than 8cm (10cm for thinnings, 15cm for coppice)
- cases where the quantity of timber felled is under 5 cubic metres, of which no more than 2 cubic metres are sold in any quarter
- felling to prevent danger
- where felling is required as part of an approved planning application (see Trees and the Planning Process)
- fruit trees or trees standing in an orchard, garden, churchyard or public open space
- felling by various utilities eg electricity and water companies in exercise of their functions
- trees in inner London boroughs
- elm trees affected by Dutch elm disease
- trees that may affect the landing or departure or navigation of aircraft.
In addition, no felling licence is needed if the site is covered by an approved Woodland Grant Scheme (WGS), or Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme (SFGS), an agreed plan of operations drawn up between the landowner and the FC. Woods managed by the Commission itself are usually covered by what is known as a Forest Design Plan. The FC has a policy against clearance of broadleaved woodland for conversion to other land use and towards conservation of the character of ancient semi-natural woodlands. To approve a felling licence that could lead to loss of ancient woodland would therefore be contrary to FC policy.
The fine for illegal felling is up to £2,500 per offence (which could mean £2,500 per tree). However, felling licences are not required for lopping and topping or destruction of undergrowth.