LETTER: Airbase a better option than a golf course
The vacant land at Youngsfield is more suitable for housing than the Rondebosch greens
We are indebted to John Cockayne for his comprehensive attempt to throw light on the debate about the Rondebosch Golf Club municipal lease and the pressing demands for land for affordable housing in Cape Town.
In particular, we should acknowledge the value of two of his conclusions: first, that the game of golf, which attracts the interest countrywide of 500,000 South Africans of all races, is not by any standard an “elite” sport; and, second, that the issue is not confined to the status of Rondebosch Golf Club alone but affects the status and future of most metropolitan golf courses.
This is why common sense, sound practical assessment and a shift of paradigms is necessary. Like most metropolitan golf clubs, the 110-year-old Rondebosch one is well used and a going concern with an impressive list of positives to justify its place in the community: providing jobs for scores of people; feeding hundreds of mouths; serving as an essential recreational facility for young and old of all races by accommodating more than 50,000 rounds of golf each year; playing a vital role in attracting tourists and their much-needed foreign exchange; providing an important green lung in the heart of the city; optimising rating values in neighbouring suburbs; and paying for its own world-class upkeep and paying rates and rents to the city.
Unlike other clubs, much of the Rondebosch Golf Course lies in a flood plain along the Black and Vygekraal rivers and is entirely unsuitable for housing. The area already has an overloaded sewerage system that often spills onto parts of the course.
So, in these circumstances, why is Rondebosch Golf Club the focus of this affordable housing campaign? It is hard not to conclude that it is because the club is a soft target and protests by campaigning groups can gain maximum exposure for their justified cause. The protests have been peaceful, and it can be said that most members of the club sympathise with the cause of those who are clamouring for room to develop much-needed housing.
This is why it is time for some common sense and common cause to prevail. Just down the highway — a few kilometres from the Rondebosch Golf Course — lies the vast and unused tract of land that was once Youngsfield airbase. It is accessible and flood-free; it is near major road and rail services and is close to major shopping facilities; there are schools and sporting facilities in the vicinity; and it is already owned by the state. Like other military bases within the metropole, it is ideal for repurposing.
The worthy and needy housing campaigners should be concentrating their efforts on getting the authorities — city, province and state — to co-ordinate their powers to ensure rapid and imaginative redevelopment of this now useless airbase. Members of Rondebosch Golf Club, I am sure, would happily join any protest aimed at reclaiming the Youngsfield land for housing.
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