Lease renewal sparks debate

2020-02-11 06:02
The City’s decision to renew Rondebosch Golf Club’s lease is surrounded by opposing views. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

The City’s decision to renew Rondebosch Golf Club’s lease is surrounded by opposing views. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

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The City of Cape Town’s renewal of the Rondebosch Golf Course lease for another 10 years has residents talking.

Lara Young, an Observatory resident, is against the renewal. She believes a huge opportunity to make an impact on the development of affordable housing has been passed up by the City in favour of privileging the privileged.

“Take a drive beyond Cape Town International Airport and see what the real Cape Town looks like. It’s not green, it doesn’t have huge houses, swimming pools, well-kept public spaces. It’s dry, dusty, wind-swept and largely poor.

“The Cape Flats is where the majority of Cape Town’s residents live. The City is not providing services to the Flats, it must, therefore, insist on the suburbs sharing their resources more equitably,” says Young.

Although she suspects most southern suburb residents applaud the City’s decision, she believes affordable housing to breach the country’s economic gap is essential for socio-economic transformation.

“Social justice begins with the ability to see beyond your self-interest and embrace a fair distribution favouring the majority. At some point social justice has to happen in this city. Why not start here,” she asks.

When considering public and private investment decisions, the City looks to the Municipal Spatial Development Framework (MSDF) for guidance.

The MSDF guides and informs long-term planning and development. This spatial vision of building “a more inclusive, integrated and vibrant city” is based on transit-oriented development (TOD) and the densification and diversification of land uses.

It also includes safeguarding critical natural asset areas that contribute significantly to Cape Town’s future resilience and/or are protected by legislation. These include protected natural environments and conservation areas.

Clare Burgess of TreeKeepers says the citizens’ organisation is committed to the conservation and preservation of the urban forest. Any trees located and growing on a golf course or any other public open space are major contributors to the “greening” of the City.

“The trees on this land grow well due to the abundance of water; both the high water table which occurs naturally due to this being in the flood plain of the Black River, and also due to the irrigation pumped out of the river.”

Burgess explains that the choice of trees which were planted in this area many years ago reflect the problems associated with Cape Flats climatic conditions.

“Most of the trees are exotics which are proven winners in terms of adapting to harsh, desiccating winds in summer and a high water table in winter along with very poor soils. Sadly, there are not many large trees that can cope with this environment and part of the reason for planting trees was as windbreaks and visual barriers to enable golfers and other users to function and enjoy this otherwise windswept landscape,” she says.

Since the trees are also located along the N2, a major source of air pollution from vehicles, and particulate dust from tyres, the trees also act as a health benefit, absorbing pollution at source and processing it into oxygen.

“In addition, they sequester carbon quite efficiently and require little care since they are mostly quite mature and their canopies and root systems in the soil have grown together to form a strong bio-diversity network.”

Burgess says if the site remains an open space, it would be good to see the lessee commit to an ongoing tree planting and maintenance programme.

“It is also interesting to recognise that some of the trees may be remnants of the original old agricultural activities or property boundaries and thus contribute to the heritage aspects of the City,” she concludes.

The City’s public participation process will be announced in the next few weeks. It will give community members the chance to have their say.

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