Sunday Times Q & A - Buying Woodland
Question - We often see small amounts of amenity woodland for sale for between £10,000 and £20,000, and would like to buy something. What are the likely pitfalls of woodland ownership? AW - Surrey
Answer - There are lots of good reasons to own woodland, including landscape, nature conservation and of course the satisfaction of growing trees. There are grants available for woodland improvements, potential income from the sale of timber as well as potentially Inheritance Tax benefits.
There are also liabilities which you need to be aware of, in particular any dangerous trees which could injure someone. Make sure that any trees near a highway or public right of way are regularly checked by an aboriculturist to ensure that none are either dead, dying or dangerous, and you carry out any recommended works.
There are restrictions on felling trees – any works to a tree covered by a Tree Preservation Order or situated in a Conservation Area need to be authorised beforehand by the Tree Officer at your local authority. In addition, if you intend to fell more than three cubic metres of timber in each quarter of the year (or sell more than two cubic metres), you will need a felling licence from the Forestry Authority. It will usually be a condition of any licence that any felled trees are replaced.
As with any land ownership, you need to be careful of fly tipping, public access liabilities and anything which might cause pollution or a nuisance to others. For more advice on woodland ownership, contact the Forestry Commission (forestry.gov.uk).