Man made thousands illegally felling huge area of woodland in Welsh beauty spot

Tscarred landscape where eight hectares of trees were illegally felled in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wales
-Credit: (Image: Natural Resources Wales (NRW),)


A landowner who illegally felled eight hectares of native woodland in one of Wales' most beautiful natural areas has been convicted in court. Jeff Lane will have to pay more than £12,000 following the court case - however it is a fraction of the nearly £80,000 he's estimated to have made from his crime.

Lane cut down the trees in Gower, Swansea, which is an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wales. He was prosecuted under forestry legislation by Natural Resources Wales and, in a UK legal first, was issued with a confiscation order for £11,280 under the Proceeds of Crime Act as well as a fine of £1,500.

However it is a fraction of the £78,64.68 that NRW estimated he had made from his crimes. Natural Resources Wales officers said it was one of the worst offences of illegal felling they had seen for 30 years.

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Lane illegally felled trees covering an area equivalent to 12 football pitches within the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Swansea between April 2019 and September 2020, without the appropriate licence. Having previously been found guilty of forestry offences at Swansea Magistrates court in April 2022, the landowner was slapped with the confiscation order and fine by the judge.

Lane’s offences relate to felling without a licence and for noncompliance with an enforcement to replant those trees. He Lane appealed the April 2022 conviction and was tried again in November 2022 where he was found guilty again.

The application for a confiscation order under the POCA was made on June 14 2024 at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), who also prosecuted Mr Lane for the forestry offences. The Judge agreed with the NRW’s claim that Lane had benefited financially to the tune of £78,64.68 from his crimes.

However, the Judge made a confiscation order which now orders Lane to pay £11,280 as his available amount. Investigations previously carried out by NRW officers revealed that a total of 8.5 hectares of native and wet woodland located to the north of Ilston - the equivalent of 12 football pitches - had been cut down by Mr Lane without the appropriate licence.

Native and wet woodland are a priority habitat listed under Section 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act. Many trees were uprooted and damaged to an extent where they are unlikely to regenerate.

Nick Fackrell, Forest Regulation Senior Officer for Natural Resources Wales said: “We have a legal duty to protect the natural environment in Wales and that includes ensuring compliance with forestry regulations. We welcome the outcome and hope this sends a clear message that we won’t hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action to protect wildlife and the environment.

“Using the Proceeds of Crime Act to punish illegal felling is a bold step that we hope will make people think twice before acting recklessly against the environment. We cannot take our woodlands for granted. Felling licences are part of the system we have in place so we can manage our trees and woodlands effectively and sustainably, protecting them and making sure they continue to benefit us all now, and into the future.

“Actions like these undermine the work of farmers, foresters and land managers working legally and sustainably to look after our wildlife and countryside, grow our food and produce our timber.”

The public can report illegal felling by calling the NRW’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0300 065 3000 or report it online here