Do we need permission to cut down a tree in our French garden?

We look at the rules surrounding tree felling in France, which vary depending on the type of area you live in

A reader asks if they need to obtain permission before cutting down a tree in their garden
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Reader Question: we would like to have more light come into our terrace. If we want to cut down a tree on our land do we need to do anything or get any permission?

If you have a tree on your land that you would like to fell, you should consult your mairie as to the commune’s Plan local d’urbanisme, which may stipulate that you need a déclaration préalable de travaux – an informal version of planning permission – to carry out the work.

This involves submitting a declaration of the work to be done, and tacit permission is given if the council does not object within a given period (usually one month).

In some cases it will only be permitted on condition that you replace the tree by planting another in its place.

However, if your home is situated in a zone classée, perhaps if it is in an area of outstanding natural beauty or near a historic monument, you may not be allowed to cut it down.

This may also be the case for a protected type of tree such as a carob tree, so we suggest taking a photo of it and/or checking the species so as to obtain the correct information from the mairie.

It should also be noted that if a tree has been over two metres tall for over 30 years it will usually be subject to a prescription trentenaire rule, meaning that it cannot be completely cut down.

However, there are several situations in which cutting down a tree may be deemed necessary, including when it is disrupting the lives of your neighbours (causing a trouble anormal de voisinage) or if it is posing a risk to people or property.

Tree felling is a dangerous activity which requires particular skills, so it is advisable to ask a professional to do it instead of trying it yourself. Depending on the height of the tree the operation would likely cost a few hundred euros.

Perhaps you could also prune the tree to reduce its height or thin out its branches first to see if this allows the extra light that you would like.

Trees in a woodland

If the tree is situated in an espace boisé classé, an area of woodland in which there are restrictions on cutting down trees, you must always obtain prior authorisation (autorisation préalable) before you go about felling it.

If you fell a protected tree without permission you could face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to €150,000.

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