Tree-felling at Fife woodland 'did not break law'

Tree felling on the future site of Fife's education super-campus is within legal limits - but only just, Scotland's forestry watchdog has concluded.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 2:58 pm
The tree felling was ruled to be legal.

As reported earlier this week, contractors working on behalf of property developer Shepherd Offshore stoked outrage when they cut down trees on the Axis Point site to the east of Dunfermline without a permit.

The site, close to both the Amazon warehouse and Fife Leisure Park, forms part of the area where new homes, a filling station and the new Dunfermline Learning Campus could be built, subject to planning approval.

The land is the subject of a planning application for an access road which has received nearly 200 objections from members of the public.

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On March 1 regulator Forestry Scotland stepped in, telling workers to cease felling while it carried out an investigation. It has since concluded that Shepherd has not broken the law - but if it fells any more trees it could become liable for prosecution.

Cutting down trees without a tree felling licence is an offence under the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act, punishable by fines of up to £5,000 per tree felled.

However, the watchdog says Shepherd has not broken the law because the total amount of wood lost does not exceed a statutory limit of five cubic metres of timber that can be cut down without a permit every three months.

A Scottish Forestry spokesman said: “We have estimated that the amount of timber felled is under the limit of five cubic metres, therefore we don’t believe any offence has taken place. In this case, no further action from Scottish Forestry is needed.

“However, we have advised the landowner and contractor that any further felling on the site would likely give rise to an offence being committed.”

The proposed access road runs between the Axis site and Calaismuir Wood to the south. Conservation campaigners claim the works are disturbing local wildlife and could cause irreperable ecological harm to the area.

Fife Council says responsibility for the site falls to its owner, and insists its ability to step in is limited by law.

Shepherd is in the process of selling the land to the local authority, Fife College and housebuilders Bellway Homes and Persimmon Homes. The firm failed to respond to multiple requests for comment.