Flats on sports field plan gets nod from clubs

The Fish Hoek Sports Field is home to several sports clubs.

A proposal in a City development-strategy plan to build flats or offices on part of the Fish Hoek Sports Field has been met with public outrage, but the sports clubs there say it could benefit them.

The City’s Southern District Spatial Development Framework (SDF) proposes building flats or office and recreational-related facilities on a “small portion” of the 17-hectare sports grounds, which it describes as “underutilised.”

The proposal had community Facebook groups abuzz with one of the biggest concerns being low-cost housing.

Fish Hoek Valley Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (FHVRRA) chairman Brian Youngblood has also indicated that the association will object to the proposal, and he has asked residents to copy the association in, at FishHoekRRA@gmail.com, on their comments to the City.

However, Peter Edgar, chairman of the Fish Hoek Field Management Committee (FMC), also known as the Fish Hoek Sports Association, which oversees all the sports clubs using the facility, said there was no need for panic.

The FMC comprises a representative of each of the eight clubs: cricket, hockey, athletics, squash and basketball clubs as well as the Fish Hoek Association Football Club, the Valley Grappling Club, and the Fish Hoek Electric Flying Club

Mr Edgar said the facilities had deteriorated, and the FMC had struggled to maintain them after the City pulled funding about 15 years ago.

“The Hockey Club had to move to Wynberg as we did not have an AstroTurf and could not afford to get one,” he said.

He said that about five years ago, the FMC had met with City representatives and presented them with a proposal to help maintain and improve the sports facilities. The then mayor had visited the facility and various options had been presented, including building a private school on the property, which would, in turn, have provided soccer and hockey AstroTurfs, and been a source of public funding through public-private partnerships.

However, the property, which is zoned as open space, allowing for recreational areas on public land, will need rezoning before anything can be built there.

“It is the only way forward and will make the sporting facilities top class,” said Mr Edgar.

The FMC earned passive income from “external entities”, but it was not enough to maintain and improve the facility, said Mr Edgar, who is busy registering the FMC as a non-profit organisation.

On top of building improvements and paying the salaries of ground staff, the clubs also had to fork out a lot of money for electricity every month, Mr Edgar said, adding that 90% of FMC-managed facilities on the Cape Peninsula were fenced and locked and an entry fee was charged.

“Our facility has never been fenced, and we don’t want it fenced as we want it to be accessible to everyone in Fish Hoek,” he said.

Simon O’Connell, chairman of the Fish Hoek Cricket Club, said he was aware of the proposal and fully supported it as the cricket fields were in need of “lots of attention” and the club was losing many players as the facility was not up to scratch.

Derek Muller, vice chairman of the FMC and chairman of the Fish Hoek Association Football Club, said he too supported the proposal.

He said many players at the club were from Masiphumelele, Ocean View, and surrounds and the club would benefit from an AstroTurf; however, a full AstroTurf cost around R5 million to R7 million and it was impossible for the club to raise the money.

Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Eddie Andrews said the proposal was “merely speculative at this stage”; however, it was a reality that the under-resourced facilities on the sports fields were battling to be maintained as quality areas.

He said the SDF did not identify a specific portion of land or specify a proposed size or even indicate that the land should be developed.

“It indicates that a small portion, approximately 10%, could potentially be developed to cross-subsidise improvement of the sports precinct,” he said.

As the primary purpose of the proposal would be cross-subsidisation for the improvement of the current sports facilities, it was unlikely that it would include low-cost housing, he said.

Mr Andrews said the site met the requirements for potential public-private partnerships as it was close to public transport, overlooked open space, and had a mountain view.

Although the SDF does not specify what is meant by a public-private partnership, Mr Andrews said it could include a long-term lease or sale of a portion of the land with the requirement that for a lease period or in “perpetuity a certain percentage of monthly/annual profit and possibly upfront capital grant be directly channelled to adjacent sports precinct upgrade and maintenance”“

Office space, he said, tended to maximise land value per square metre, thus, “maximising cross-subsidisation potential”.

He said a sub-council public meeting had been scheduled for Thursday, August 18 and residents had until Tuesday August 30 to comment on the proposed SDF by emailing southern.districtsdf@capetown.gov.za

The A football field is used for practice and league matches and is the ideal location for the football AstroTurf according to FMC chairman Peter Edgar.
The cricket A field is the ideal location for a hockey AstroTurf, according to FMC chairman Peter Edgar.
A front view of the cricket practice nets.