Developers across Tayside have been warned they face hefty fines and a criminal record after two woodlands were cut down without permission.
Scottish Forestry is demanding developers contact it in advance of any works after a spate of illegal tree felling in Dundee and Perth since April.
The organisation said perpetrators can be fined up to £5,000 per tree felled if they don’t have the right permissions in place.
The forestry body can also issue a restocking order, forcing a developer to replant all trees and manage them for a 10 year period – effectively preventing them from using the site for a decade.
Scottish Forestry gave the warning after an area of native broadleaf woodland was cut down near Dundee without a planning application, forcing the organisation to issue a restock direction to replant an area double the size of that destroyed.
A second woodland near Perth had permission in place to thin the trees but developers cut them down instead, resulting in another restock order.
Scottish Forestry refused to “name and shame” the developers but did say there was a growing problem in the Tayside area and in Argyllshire, with the body dealing with another 20 reported cases.
Brendan Callaghan, Scottish Forestry’s head of operational delivery said: “The majority of our most serious cases are by small scale developers who are felling trees to make way for new building.
“Some do not realise that the fines involved can be significant and this can be a shock to them.
“Added to this, if we demand that the trees are restocked it will often prevent them from using the site for many years.”
He urged the public to alert the organisation to suspected unauthorised activity and said every report Scottish Forestry receives on an alleged illegal felling is fully investigated by woodland officers.
“It can be a time consuming job but it is necessary and we value the public being our eyes and ears on the ground,” said Mr Callaghan.
“We have a very simple and clear guide to the new felling permissions system and we would recommend that developers take time to read it.
“We would much prefer to offer advice to anyone in advance of tree felling, rather than have to take punitive action after it has happened.”