An Introduction to Planning Control in Woodlands

An Introduction to Planning Control in Woodlands

by Graham Morgan (Director, The SLIM Woodlands C.I.C) April 2019.

This article is intended to provide a short, clear and simple introduction to the planning system for woodland owners. It is for information purposes only. Should you require further assistance with your idea/project, you can contact Graham Morgan at Graham is a specialist woodland planning consultant offering affordable, practical support.


What is Forestry Development?

National planning law clearly states that the act of using land for forestry is not development and does not need permission. Anything else will require planning permission, including:

  • change in use (land or building)
  • a physical ‘engineering’ operation on the land
  • constructing a new permanent building
  • significant works to an existing building (alteration, extension or demolition).

There are three main ways that development activities in woodlands can be authorised (see Figure 1):

  • through a full planning application;
  • through permitted development ‘rights’;
  • through an exemption certificate.


Figure 1: Overview of Planning and Woodlands


Full Planning Permission  

The most likely scenario where full planning permission is required will be if you want to permanently live in/near a woodland; whether in a newly built house, live in a permanently sited caravan, or convert an existing building for residential use. Receiving permission for this through a full planning application is not impossible but is typically only granted in exceptional circumstances


Forestry Permitted Development Rights

Permitted development ‘rights’ are granted through national planning law which allows certain routine operations to occur without obtaining full planning permission.  For forestry this includes:

  • installing a new permanent forestry building, or significant extension/alteration of an existing forestry building
  • installation of new (or alteration/maintenance of existing) forestry tracks (‘private ways’), quarrying of material on site for the tracks
  • ‘other operations’.

However, there are limitations, including:

  • limitations to what can/cannot be done; for example all activities have to be ‘reasonably necessary for forestry’
  • the rights may be altered or removed altogether, usually where there are sensitive areas like European wildlife designations or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) - this is known as an ‘Article 3 direction’ or ‘Article 4 direction’ respectively
  • certain details for new/altered buildings or new/altered tracks may need to be pre-approved by the council in advance via a prior notification application. To receive a meaningful response, the application must be well informed and demonstrate a clear and serious intention.

Maintenance of forestry tracks (such as filling in pot holes) does not require prior notification to the council.


Pre-application Advice

Another option if there is uncertainty about whether full planning permission is needed or permitted development rights apply, is to submit a ‘pre-application advice request’ application to the council. This is a way of investigating how the council views your woodland project and key issues without triggering a formal decision from them. However in doing so, you are still revealing your intentions and putting your land/project ‘on the radar’.  Again, to receive a meaningful response, the application must be well informed and demonstrate a clear and serious intention.


Recreation/Education Activities in Woodlands

For activities such as Forest Schools, there are time-limited permitted development rights in planning law, which are not specific to forestry, but allow “The use of any land for any purpose for not more than 28 days in total in any calendar year…and the provision on the land of any moveable structure for the purposes of the permitted use”.  Beyond this time limitation, full planning permission may be required.


Camping/Caravan Site

For those wishing to run a small caravan/campsite (or equivalent structures like Ecopods) as a business, neither planning permission nor a ‘site licence’ are required from the council provided that you apply in advance for an ‘exemption certificate’ from an authorised recreational organisation to make the location a ‘certified site’.  You still need to follow certain conditions required by the organisation such as how the site is operated, and the number of tents/caravans.  Organisations include Freedom Camping Club and The Camping and Caravanning Club.

Private use of a caravan may be permitted for up to 28 days, under time-limited permitted development rights.


Scotland: Hutting

In Scotland, although the building control regulations around installing huts for recreational use in rural areas have recently been relaxed, you still need to obtain planning permission for the hut.


Wales: One Planet Development

In Wales, although the One Planet Development system is for people aiming to live and work on the same land, you still need to obtain planning permission. The planning application is supported by a One Planet Development Management Plan describing in detail how people living on the site are able to reduce their environmental impact and enhance the site, whilst meeting their everyday needs from the land.



Whilst professional judgement and professional experience has been used in the compilation of this article, it is for informational purposes only. Woods 4 Sale Ltd, The SLIM Woodlands C.I.C and Graham Morgan make no express nor implied warranties nor representations of any type, and accept no responsibility nor liability for any loss or damage suffered as a result of the use, misuse or reliance of any information/content in this article.


Woods4Sale Ltd
Jubilee Chapel
Church Lane

Phone: 01248 364 362
Company Number: 4657216.

Woods4Sale News

woodland Mailing List

If you would like to receive news of new woodlands for sale in the UK as soon as they come on the market enter your email address here. This service is FREE.

Follow Woods4Sale


On Twitter

On Facebook