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A significant amount of land in Scotland is used for forestry purposes.

We are responsible for ensuring that forest developments are designed to consider and, where possible, benefit the environment.

We do this by overseeing various types of regulation and producing guidance and advice for those working in or involved with the forestry industry.

In support of our specific interests, the UK Forestry standard guidelines are especially relevant:

How is forestry regulated?

There are a number of key pieces of environmental legislation that apply specifically or generally to forestry:

In relation to forestry, the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations – commonly known as CAR – require authorisation for activities such as:

  • storage or application of fertiliser where not already covered by other regulations;
  • the application of pesticide;
  • cultivation of land;
  • discharge of surface water run-off;
  • construction and maintenance of roads and tracks;
  • the building of new watercourse crossings or other watercourse engineering works;
  • the operation of vehicles, plant or machinery in or near watercourses when undertaking other activities.

Our water regulation pages give more in-depth information on the regulations and our CAR practical guide provides a useful overview of activities which require regulation.

We have also produced a specific leaflet on for the forestry industry entitled Reducing the risk of water pollution: Diffuse Pollution General Binding Rules: Forestry.

NB – please note that new aerial spraying permitting arrangements came into force in June 2012. Operators no longer require to consult us when aerial spraying within 250m of water; instead, they now need to apply to the Chemicals Regulation Directorate for consent.

  • The Water Framework Directive and the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 (WEWS)

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) established a new legal framework for the protection, improvement and sustainable use of the water environment. It applies to all rivers which drain a catchment area greater than 10km2, all lochs that are bigger than 0.5km2, and all coastal waters up to three nautical miles out to sea, estuaries, groundwater and wetlands.

In Scotland, this Directive was incorporated into law by the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 (WEWS Act), which set out new arrangements in Scotland to prevent deterioration of the water environment.

Where possible, surface waters and groundwater damaged by pollution, water abstraction, dams and engineering activities will be restored to ‘good status’ by 2015 through the implementation of national river basin management plans.

Forestry has a role to play in meeting the objectives of the WFD, by ensuring that forestry activities do not cause deterioration and, where appropriate, deliver improvements to the water environment.

More information can be found in Forest Research’s report entitled Woodland for Water: Woodland measures for meeting Water Framework Directive Objectives, whichhighlights how careful siting and design of woodland can benefit the water environment. 

The WFD also presents us with a duty of care to specific types of wetlands which are groundwater dependant.

The regulations apply to any kind of oil container which is used and stored on premises above ground, whether inside or outside a building, including fixed tanks, intermediate bulk containers, drums (oil drums or similar containers used for storing oil) or mobile bowsers.

The regulations apply to industrial businesses, commercial businesses, institutions or farms.

  • The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2011

Where forest operations or activities produce waste, appropriate waste management options must be considered and adopted.

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2011 highlight the relevance and importance of the waste hierarchy and how to apply it in a way which delivers the best overall environmental outcome.

There are a number of forestry activities which may require a waste management exemption, or license, from us.

These include:

  • treatment of land for ecological improvement;
  • composting;
  • chipping of waste plant matter;
  • the burning of plant tissue waste;
  • temporary storage of waste.

Further information on this is available in the waste section of our website, as well as in our guidance on the management of forestry waste.

How does forestry affect the environment and biodiversity?

The Environment section of our website outlines our duties and remits in relation to forestry’s effects on ecology and biodiversity.

We work closely with agencies such as Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to ensure that Scotland’s environment and wildlife are protected from and, where appropriate, enhanced by developments such as forestry.

When responding to forest consultations, we will apply the principles outlined in the Joint land use planning working arrangements for SEPA and SNH to ensure that, where necessary, we work with SNH to provide you with a consistent response on issues where we have an overlapping interest.

In addition, if any water environmental improvements are proposed, the Water Environment Fund may be able to provide advice and funding.

Soil is a key part of our environment and has major implications for air and water quality as well as our climate, biodiversity and economy.

The Scottish Government has recently provided a strong policy direction for the protection of soil functionality within Scotland through the publication of the Scottish Soil Framework (2009) and Scotland’s Land Use Strategy (2011).

Our position statement on planning and soils states that we will include soil considerations in our responses to Forestry and Rural Priority consultations. Our comments on soil in a forestry context currently concentrate on protecting wetlands and carbon rich soils and ensuring that excavated material is managed appropriately.

The Scottish Government's paper on the Management of Carbon-Rich Soils also provides useful advice and information on how and why to protect carbon rich soils.

How do I go about planning a forestry development?

We are identified as a key agency under the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006 and proactively assist delivery of the Scottish Government's commitment to provide a more effective and efficient planning system.

We provide formal environmental advice in relation to development plans and development proposals across Scotland, including forestry proposals.

The Planning section of our website provides more information about our position and the regulations we advise on and enforce.

The Forestry Commission’s publication, The Right Tree in the Right Place: Planning for forestry and woodlands provides advice to planning authorities on planning for forestry and woodlands. Part 3 of the guidance replaces Circular 9/1999 of Indicative Forestry Strategies.

Other Forestry Commission guidance that may be helpful when planning your proposals:

Contact us

For more advice or information on any aspect of forestry, please contact us.