Confor chief executive, Stuart Goodall, said: “David Cameron has promised to put jobs and job creation at the heart of his Government and pledged to tackle red tape, but this decision flies in the face of both those promises.
“The benefits to be gained from England’s woodland, including rural employment, renewable wood products, increased biodiversity and recreation are well known, but regulation and bureaucracy are making it harder to care for our forests.
“Around 500,000 hectares of woodland in England is unmanaged, and new woodland creation is at its lowest for 23 years.
“We also face the threat of pests and disease as our climate changes. It is vital we have the people working in forestry.”
The GLA was set up in 2005 to protect workers following the Morecambe Bay cockling tragedy the previous year. But the GLA itself, as well as the Forestry Regulation Task Force, said the woodland sector was “low risk” for worker exploitation.
Goodall said: “The forestry unions and the Woodland Trust both support our demand.
“Small businesses with low turnovers are still expected to pay £400 a year, fill in forms and be subject to possible inspection.
“If they change name or address, or even forget to renew their licence, they will be charged an additional £1,800 (the registration fee), to demonstrate that they are not doing something that in fact they already are not doing. It’s madness.”