What are the legal requirements for tree felling in Cape Town?

What are the legal requirements for tree felling in Cape Town?

Tree felling in Cape Town is governed by the National Forests Act 84 of 1998, as well as the City of Cape Town’s by-laws and policies. Here are the key legal requirements for tree felling in Cape Town:

Protected Tree Species

  • The National Forests Act protects indigenous tree species and trees that have been naturalized in South Africa.
  • The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) maintains a list of protected tree species.
  • It is illegal to cut down, damage, destroy or remove any protected tree species without a permit

Tree Felling Permits

  • To fell a protected tree species in Cape Town, you must apply for a tree felling permit from DAFF
  • The application must include details of the tree species, location, number of trees and reason for felling
  • A specialist will assess the application and may issue a permit if justified. The permit will specify conditions to adhere to

Trees on Public Land

  • Trees on public land like road reserves, parks and sidewalks belong to the City of Cape Town
  • It is illegal to prune or remove any trees on public land without written consent from the City Parks Department
  • The City will assess hazardous trees and fell problematic branches if required

Trees in Heritage Areas

  • Trees in Heritage Protection Overlay Zones require approval from the City before pruning or felling
  • The National Heritage Resources Act protects trees older than 60 years and certain species


  • Illegal felling of protected trees can result in fines up to R5 million and/or imprisonment up to 15 years
  • The City can confiscate equipment used for illegal felling and institute legal action

In summary, a permit is required to fell protected indigenous trees in Cape Town. Special conditions apply for trees on public land and in heritage areas. Illegal felling is subject to severe penalties. Proper procedures must be followed to remain compliant with the law.

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