Amendments to tree and shrub clearance regulations

On 1 January 2017 new amendments to the Act on wildlife conservation and the Act on forest conservation came into force and effect. The amendments introduce major changes in the tree and shrub clearance rules providing for new exemptions from the permission requirement.

Previous regulations obliged the owner of a real estate to request the head of the commune (the mayor or the President of a city) for a permit to cut down trees and remove the shrubs located within the real estate borderlines. In the opinion of the current legislator such regulations posed excessive and unjustified interference with the right of property as well as an unnecessary burden for real estate owners and bodies of administration.

From 1 January 2017 a permit to cut down the trees or remove the shrubs growing within the premises of a real estate being the property of natural persons is not required  if these trees and shrubs are removed for the purposes other than business activity of the owner. What is important here, the two of the aforementioned criteria (property of a natural person and removal for purposes other than business activity of the owner) must be met together for the removal of the trees and shrubs without any administrative control. Furthermore, it must be underlined here that provided that the two criteria are satisfied, no permit for the removal of trees or shrubs is required, and in such a situation, no additional criteria, such as DBH of the tree, are required to be met.

Moreover, new regulations grant new powers to district and municipal councils, which, by way of a resolution, thus, by way of adopting a local law, are competent to determine other exemptions from the requirement of  a permit for cutting down the trees or removal of the shrubs (for example, the council may exempt certain species of trees and shrubs, certain age of such trees and shrubs, or real estates of certain characteristics overgrown with the trees and shrubs). It is worth noting, that district and municipal councils are competent only to introduce further new exemptions from the requirement of obtaining a permit for cutting down the trees or removal of the shrubs, however, they have no competence to re-impose such a requirement upon a natural person who cuts down the trees or removes the shrubs for purposes other than their business activity. What is important to note, a district or municipal council is now competent to exempt natural persons cutting down the trees or removing the shrubs for purposes connected with their business activity from the requirement of getting a permission (Article 83f, section 1a, point 4) of the Act on wildlife conservation).

New regulations also introduce another calculation manner of tree and shrub clearance fees. From 1 January 2017, such fee is calculated on the basis of the rate fixed by a district or municipal council, multiplied by appropriate tree or shrub multiplier. The list of cases when trees or shrubs can be removed free of charge has also been extended. Additionally, a district or municipal council is now competent to further extend the list with other such cases. It is also worth noting that no fee is payable if a permit for the tree or shrub removal is not required.

Obvious liberalization of the rules concerning the tree and shrub clearance raises a number of reservations as regards its possible impact on the environmental degradation in our country.