You need to plan construction and maintenance work on forest roads and paths carefully. Poorly constructed roads and paths can lead to serious erosion problems.

What you must do

You may need permission from the planning service in Northern Ireland or the planning authority in Scotland to construct, alter or maintain forest roads.

Find your local council

Northern Ireland: Planning portal

You may need to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before you can start work. For this you need permission from the Forestry Commission in Scotland or the Forest Service in Northern Ireland.

Scottish Forestry: Environmental Impact Assessment

Northern Ireland - Forest Service: Environmental Impact Assessment

If you pollute the water environment, you are probably committing an offence.

In Scotland, if you carry out building and engineering works in inland waters or carry out activities close to waters that could significantly affect the water environment, you must either:

  • comply with certain general binding rules (GBRs) which apply to low-risk activities
  • register your activity with SEPA
  • obtain a licence from SEPA.

SEPA: Controlled Activities Regulations - CAR practical guide

Pollution Prevention Guideline (PPG) 5 contains guidance on measures you can take to avoid causing pollution during building and engineering work.

 GPP 5 Works and maintenance in or near water 

SEPA: Silt control while dredging 2015

Good practice

Take all reasonable and practical steps to avoid the risk of pollution during works.

Avoid using acidic, metal or sulphide-rich spoil from mine workings for road construction. Drainage water rich in metals, acid or sulphide can be extremely toxic to all species living in nearby streams or ponds.

Avoid using very fine material such as quarry dust for road surfacing as rain can wash it into watercourses.


Keep disturbance and silt levels to a minimum when using road construction equipment around watercourses. Disturbed soil can damage riverbed ecology and water quality.

Avoid unnecessary work within watercourses. If you have to carry out essential in-stream work, you should:

  • avoid wet weather, when run-off from bare ground can pollute the water with silt
  • avoid the summer months, when river flows are low and work can damage fish habitats and spawning areas.

DAERA (Northern Ireland) has produced a handbook is for landowners and people and organisations involved in carrying out activities that may alter the physical characteristics or flows of rivers and other waterbodies. The activities covered include dredging and substrate addition, removal of bankside vegetation, bed and bank reinforcements, flow manipulation and culverting.

DAERA: Surface Waters Alterations Handbook


  • Keep drains and culverts clear of debris, and only carry out maintenance in dry weather.
  • Make sure that roadside drains do not directly discharge into watercourses. Use a buffer area with an adequate width.
  • Make sure that roadside drains do not intercept large volumes of water from the ground above.
  • Where culverts are necessary, they should not obstruct the passage of fish or increase flood risk.

Working close to water


The Forestry Commission and Northern Ireland Forest Service have produced guidelines which describe measures you can take to protect and improve the freshwater environment.

SEE ALSO: Archaeology and forestry

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