Stadium’s future in the balance

2019-10-29 06:01
Affectionately called the grand old dame of local rugby, Newlands Stadium is 123-years-old.

Affectionately called the grand old dame of local rugby, Newlands Stadium is 123-years-old.

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Southern suburb residents Ellen Fedele and Leigh Bartlett’s Save Newlands Stadium media campaign, launched this month shortly after reports of its possible demolition, has elicited mixed reactions.

Scrolling through its Facebook page, which last week had 209 members, and the change.org petition link, so far signed by 359, the movement does enjoy support, but it also has its detractors.

Fedele, who has received many emails and text messages since her letter (“Are we just going to sit back and watch Newlands Stadium be pulled down?”, Cape Argus 14 October) was published, says that although most were positive, there were those who told her it was a money issue.

Reports that the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) would relocate to Cape Town Stadium in Green Point has been doing the rounds even before the last brick was laid at the World Cup stadium in 2009. Not only would the union save on the Newland Stadium’s maintenance costs (said to be in the millions per year), but the development of the prime property would mean a healthy cash injection for WPRFU which, three years ago, was on the brink of bankruptcy.

But Fedele says this kind of decision shouldn’t be based on money alone.

“There is much more at stake here. I grew up in Albion Road around the corner from the stadium. I’ve experienced the atmosphere at the stadium. There is a presence there that you won’t find anywhere else. From World Cup matches to seasonal matches, Newlands has been a proud tradition and heritage of the city,” she says.

Affectionately called the grand old dame of local rugby, Newlands Stadium is 123-years-old.

According to capetown.travel’s website, Newlands Stadium is the oldest rugby stadium in South Africa and the second-oldest rugby stadium in the world. WPRFU bought the ground in 1888. The first official rugby match at Newlands took place on 31 May 1890. The first permanent concrete stands were erected in 1919.

Media reports of the stadium’s possible demolition began to surface in the first week of October. The Rugby Rocks website reported WPRFU had entered into an agreement with Investec that would see the asset management group given development rights to the stadium from 2021. It has been reported (Sport 24, “Newlands demolition likely, but timeline uncertain”, 7 October) that Investec plans to eventually erect residential and retail properties on the site.

People’s Post contacted WPRFU and Investec for comment. Investec responded, saying at present, it could not comment further. No response had been received from WPRFU by the time of going to press.

Whether the demolition will go ahead and if so, when, remains up in the air. Before any development can take place, however, an application for rezoning rights have to be submitted to the City of Cape Town.

Ian Iversen, councillor for ward 59, says Newlands Stadium is private property and the owners have the right to submit an application to demolish the property.

“If residents want to get involved when a rezoning application is submitted and advertised they will certainly have the right to submit comments which will form part of the agenda item when the matter appears on the Municipal Planning Tribunal agenda,” Iversen says.

According to Heritage Western Cape’s website, heritage site applications require consultation with the registered conservation bodies for that particular geographic area or theme of a conservation body’s interest. The Greater Lynfrae Civic Association (GLCA) is the registered conservation body for the area including the stadium.

Asked whether GLCA would consider supporting such a heritage site application, the association’s vice chair, Kaz Henderson, says it could not make a determination as a committee without first putting the question to its members and community.

“The GLCA would need to put this out to the community to determine what the consensus is, in order to comment and determine whether they would consider or want the stadium as a heritage site,” she says.

Henderson says the committee is not opposed to anything that enhances the community and environment.

“That could include declaring the site as a heritage site (provincial or national would need to go through the appropriate channels and motivations, of course). Or the greater good could also include a development.

“Either way, the GLCA needs to be consulted, and through our planning sub-committee comprising professionals in these areas, we would make a considered opinion in consultation with our community,” she says.

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