Making use of open spaces

Sheval Arendse, Sub-council 12 chairperson.

The City of Cape Town is rolling out a plan for alternative use of open land in Mitchell’s Plain through its proposed Open Space Rationalisation Framework.

The project was initiated at the request of the City Parks Department to determine what public open space erven should be retained and what could potentially be put to other use.

A spatial analysis revealed that approximately 1 288 hectares of land is undeveloped/ vacant in Micthell’s Plain and a further
1 132 hectares is regarded as partially developed or underutilised.

A property ownership and spatial analysis verified that in Mitchell’s Plain, the City of Cape Town holds a total of 546 hectares of which 309 hectares were designated to be under-developed/ vacant and 202 hectares designated to be partially developed and underutilised.

The national Department of Public Works has about 173 hectares of which about 10% are designated as under-developed and 90% underutilised or partially developed.

The motivation behind the request was based on a number of reasons, some of which included that City Parks has what is believed to be an oversupply of open space sites (parks land) in Mitchell’s Plain and that City Parks is understaffed and under-budgeted to adequately respond to all the open space sites in the area.

Nigel Titus from the City’s Urban Integrations Department did a presentation at the Sub-council 12 meeting, at Lentegeur Chambers on Thursday August 17, to present a progress report on the rationalisation of the open spaces in Sub-council 12.

“We needed to provide draft proposals on a land disposal/ rationalisation framework in the area and also to obtain agreement on the next steps,” he said.

Mr Titus said vacant and underutilised sites have been identified, and should be retained and appropriately developed for open space use. “Sites, no longer needed for open spaces are identified to be disposed of,” he said.

“Therefore, a framework is produced that relevant departments can use to rationalise and upgrade identified open spaces, to provide quality open spaces, linked to an open space system, and where redundant sites are proposed for alternative uses,” he said.

Mr Titus said the next step is to show the latest property disposals and reservations. “Thereafter, initiate public engagement to determine interest in the small parks – retain if communities maintain, else dispose to interested neighbours.”

He said discussions also need to be initiated with the Western Cape Education Department , among various government departments, regarding the future utilisation of their underutilised land (±63,72ha) in the area.

Mr Titus said they will then request the initiation of the disposal process of the 31 larger sites.

Sheval Arendse, Sub-council 12 chairperson and Tafelsig ward councillor, said most of the open spaces are neglected by the community. “They dump their daily household waste and building rubble. Some of them are currently taking ownership and beautify the area where they live.

“We are in dire need of housing and hope that some of these are used for to build homes,” he said.

Mr Arendse said he is concerned about open spaces that are bought by private individuals, who must be kept liable and build within three years of sale.”There is still a few open spaces that were sold, but nothing built,” he said.

Michael Jacobs, Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association (MURA) deputy chairperson, who was at the sub-council meeting said they have seen the state of negligence and disrepair of most of the open spaces and welcomes a holistic approach from the City of Cape Town in dealing with these challenges.

“Parks and open spaces have become havens for drug dealing, antisocial behaviour and truancy. We call on the City and sub-councils to engage meaningfully with affected local communities and community organisations to find sustainable solutions to address the issue of open spaces and parks.

“Sub-council 12 have been discussing this issue since November 2016 and we call on councillors to come and address this issue with our communities by calling public meetings for community input.”

Daniel Christians, councillor for Ward 81 (Rocklands and parts of Portland) said back in the 1970s when the first 300 families moved into Westridge the over 500 open spaces and communal parks were well cared for by the then Parks and Forests directorate of the City of Cape Town.

He said the problems of maintaining these open spaces started when the directorate fell away, creating City Parks on the one side and Sports, Recreation and Amenities on the other side.

“Maintenance functions were severely hampered and overlooked. On top of it, there was a huge influx of people to Mitchell’s Plain during the 1980s and 1990s. Maintenance staff for these open spaces remained at a critical level and staff were not replaced where vacancies occurred as is the case today.

“It is important to note that under the Urban Renewal Programme, which had a lifespan of 11 years, aesthetics to many dysfunctional areas were introduced. To advance these beautification projects councillors provide funding on a continuous basis,” he said.

He said open spaces are critical to the people of Mitchell’s Plain. He said it is where people gather and enjoyed themselves.

Mr Christians said it should be a place where children are safe. “Unfortunately this is not the case. Gross vandalism remain the order of the day and people feel unsafe. It is along these lines that the existing communal parks do not reflect its true value and vice versa,” he said.

He said the Open Space Rationalisation Framework presentation is a critical tool to alienate some of these vandalised open spaces. “The rezoning of these open spaces to mixed use (housing opportunities, general businesses and commercial activities) will bring much worth to Mitchell’s Plan and its people,” he said.

Solomon Philander, councillor for Ward 79 (Beacon Valley, west of Oval East Street up to Epsom Crescent and Lords Street, south ff Oval North Street and Trampoline Street, east of Az Berman Drive and north of Imperial Street, Portland,west of South of Wespoort Drive, east of Merrydale Street and north of Oxford Street, Trafalgar Way, Cambridge Street and the railway line, Mitchell’s Plain CBD, Town Centre and Eastridge) said public open spaces has been a challenge within his ward and the maintenance thereof. “This requires big budgets specifically where there is a lack of community partnerships. In creating a safe city there is a great need to relook at how we use these public open spaces,” he said.

Eddie Andrews, the mayoral committee member for area south and ward councillor for Ward 78 (Westridge, Westgate, south of Margenster Street, Portland, west of the railway line, south of Morgenster Street, east of Eisleben Road and north of Wespoort Drive, Rocklands, north of Sheign Hassan Road) said most of the public open spaces have been designed in such a manner where the rear of the houses face it.

“Those residents are therefore unable to passively monitor the parks/public open spaces. As a consequence the open spaces became battle grounds for the various gangs to execute their turf war. Rationalising these open spaces would alleviate the safety and dumping burden to the community.

“In addition to the surrounding community to comment, this would now be an ideal opportunity for NGOs/NPOs to express an interest and submit proposal on the usage of these spaces or acquiring the site for community development objectives,” he said.

Mr Philander said it can be used for community partnership, for local small business development, small community projects. “However, we first need public participation to hear how the community wants to use the open space as we don’t want to prescribe to the community in the hope that the community will take ownership of the project or the use of the public space. This is long overdue,” he said.