Cape Town reviewing sports ground use amid reports of R1 000 lease for prime golf course

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Activists from ‘Reclaim the City’ civil rights group occupy the Rondebosch Golf Course, calling for the club to be converted into social housing on March 21, 2019 in Rondebosch.
Activists from ‘Reclaim the City’ civil rights group occupy the Rondebosch Golf Course, calling for the club to be converted into social housing on March 21, 2019 in Rondebosch.
Netwerk24/Jaco Marais

The City of Cape Town acknowledged it is considering the future viability of golf courses on city-owned land but insists the Rondebosch Golf Club is not suitable for the housing that activists are hoping for. 

The City came under fire when the Cape Argus reported this week that it was proposing to lease the 45.99ha golf course in the prime suburb for R1 000 a year.

Reclaim the City, which lobbies for more affordable accommodation for working class people on underutilised land, pounced when they saw the report. 

"Golf courses and bowling greens are faced with declining membership, yet the City continues to renew their leases for R1 000 per annum," its Facebook post read.

Viability

In response, the City's mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, James Vos, and his community services and health counterpart, Zahid Badroodien, claimed it was not as simple as that.

"Rapid urbanisation is leading to an acute need for accommodation that is close to economic opportunities, amenities and public transport. However, one needs to be mindful that not every tract of City-owned land is suitable for this purpose," they said.

"However, there are questions over the viability of certain golf courses due to the exorbitant maintenance costs of the site."

"The City, through the recreation and parks department, is currently assessing each golf course that is situated on City-owned land according to its individual merits, challenges and future potential," they added.

The options include reducing the size of a golf course or incorporating income-generating compatible uses, which may include "housing opportunities".

Not suitable

But analysis so far has found that the Rondebosch Golf Club is not suitable for this.

Half of the land (23.2ha) is below the 1:50-year flood line (a once-in-a-50-year flood), which creates limitations in terms of the development potential of the property and lease potential.

The golf course was also designed to prevent neighbouring properties from flooding.

They explained the elongated rectangular-like shape of the open space with the Black River running through the north-east section limits the proportion of the site available for development and there are also access limitations because of its situation.

"Therefore, the Rondebosch Golf Club will always have the above constraints that will prevent any proposed development," the councillors said. 

"Due to these limitations, its current use as a golf course is considered consistent with metropolitan spatial policy."

Renewed lease

The current lease renewal is under consideration and the City intends seeking council approval to consult the public in the proposed granting of a further 10-year lease agreement to Rondebosch Golf Club. The current lease is registered to a non-profit organisation which expires in December 2020.

They said the key motivating factors informing the City's intent to consider a further 10-year lease agreement are: 

- The course is situated within a high flood-line/wetland and the golf course was designed to provide a holding area for the on-site storage of floodwaters to prevent flooding of properties;

- Rondebosch Golf Club is at the forefront of the Cape Town golfing community in driving transformation and development in golf with over 50% of their membership from previously disadvantaged groups and they pride themselves on being racially and culturally diverse. They have a very active and successful development programme for the youth;

- It also provides a well-maintained, accessible local parkland area and contributes to employment at no cost to the City.  

- The lessee wants to keep leasing the property and would be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep that costs around R6m a year; 

- The city also hosts several Sunshine Tour tournaments. The golf industry's national contribution is estimated at R1.5bn with the total estimated player contribution for Cape Town clubs estimated at R226m for 2015. 

The City is also reviewing its tariff mechanisms for sporting precincts.

Proposals include that clubs provide annual audited financial statements, copies of commercial sub-lease agreements, and any commercial activities, including tea rooms, restaurants and bars are subject to rental review.  

The proposed tariffs for 2020/21 will be eventually be submitted for consideration and recommendation to the council.

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