Landowner convicted of illegally felling trees despite appealing his conviction

A landowner has had his appeal dismissed and has been found guilty of illegally felling more than eight hectares of woodland in Gower, Swansea, in what has been described as “one of the worst cases of illegal tree felling that Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has investigated in over 30 years”.

In April this year, landowner Jeff Lane was found guilty of breaching section 17 of the Forestry Act for illegally felling eight hectares of woodland within the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Lane announced at the time that he was appealing his conviction. 

However, following a re-trial, Lane’s appeal has been dismissed by Swansea Crown Court, and the convictions on both counts of illegal felling and non-compliance with the environmental impact assessment regulations (forestry) enforcement notice, against him are upheld.  

During the appeal, Lane reportedly argued that he had only cut down “rotten and decayed trees” in an effort to “improve the lane”.

However, according to Wales Online the court found those assertions "did not hold up" and that much of the expert witness evidence the defendant offered was not credible.

Recorder Richard Kenber reportedly told the court that there was “clear and compelling evidence” that illegal felling had taken place - and the appeal was dismissed in full.

NRW also proved that an enforcement notice to restock the trees that had been felled in 2019 had not been acted on. 

Nick Fackrell, senior officer in forest regulation and tree plant Health, said: “This outcome demonstrates that non-compliance is not an advisable route for landowners who decide not to comply with felling licences and to fell their trees illegally.

“This is one of the worst cases of illegal tree felling that NRW has investigated in over 30 years. We carried out a thorough investigation and the evidence was strong that illegal felling activity had taken place.

“The loss of this native and wet woodland is devastating, and it will take many generations for new trees to grow to replace them, if they grow at all.”

Sentencing will take place on 14 April 2023.