Sports field upgrade concerns residents

The plan to upgrade the field in Upper Orange Street has been met with concern and objection by some residents.

Oranjezicht Residents have raised concerns about the upgrade of a sports field in Upper Orange Street. However, St Cyprian’s School is adamant that the upgrade will benefit the community in the long-term.

The school has proposed an upgrade for the piece of land owned by the Department of Public Works, but it is currently zoned for educational use. The project, which is set to cost the school R14 million, is set to begin next month and is due for completion in the middle of next year.

The field is bordered by Upper Orange Street, Belvedere Avenue, Rose Mount Avenue and Prince Street. It is currently being leased by Good Hope Seminary School, which will also make use of the field once it is upgraded.

Barry Smith, chairperson of the City Bowl Ratepayers’ Association, said they would support any residents objecting to the plan.

He said that the main concern would be traffic management, as the roads were very narrow.

Another major concern was the noise for people who lived near the field.

Dries Botha, who is acting as spokesman for the residents objecting to the upgrade, said they were concerned about the environmental impact of the upgrade.

“Our greatest disappointment with the proposed development will definitely be the departure or loss of the animal life, trees and natural lawn that provides a feeding ground for a number of bird (inter alia) species. This is a heritage protected area,” he said.

“To replace this with a noise-machine accompanied by gridlock traffic seems rather unfair to the neighbours who bought property around this ‘green lung’.

The other concern was noise, light pollution, he said.

Mr Botha added that they were also concerned about the school’s plans to replace a natural field with an AstroTurf.

“In my research of AstroTurf, I’ve learnt that the actual plastic lawn heats up to such a degree that in order to play on it, one has to hose it down with water. We cannot even begin to calculate the water wastage that would be involved. Currently, this field is not irrigated and remains green all year-round.”

On the issue of traffic, Mr Botha said: “The streets around this field are very narrow. When cars are parked on both sides of the road (as will be the case – we know this from experience with concerts in De Waal Park and the Upper Orange Farmer’s Market) only a single lane is available for traffic, turning streets around this field into one-ways.”

Mr Botha said they had been disappointed with their engagements with the school and the Department of Education thus far.

“Legal action is the only avenue left to us. Our sense of helplessness makes the experience tantamount to bullying, especially since we were notified of this project at a point when it was already too late to stop the process without resorting to legal action. This involves a significant financial commitment on the part of the neighbourhood.”

However, St Cyrpian’s is ada-mant that the upgrade will not only benefit the school but also the community in the long term.

The school’s principal, Sue Redelinghuys said while concern about change in the area was understandable, they would do everything to make sure the change was stress-free for residents. She said the Department of Education had given the field to Good Hope Seminary. “It’s always been a sports field. One of the reasons we haven’t used the field a lot was because it needed upgrading.”

She said the school has already upgraded the field, since they’ve been given usage rights.

“I think it was part of the upgrade that attracted the wild life to the field in the first place.”

Ms Redelinghuys said St Cyp-rian’s School negotiated with Good Hope Seminary School and provincial government to get a longer lease. “We wanted to turn it into an AstroTurf and formalise the sharing with Good Hope Seminary. It was about partnering with another girls’ school.

“We told the neighbours what we were planning to do and we would manage the field that would show respect in terms of times of use. We also met with them and formalised a management usage policy so that the neighbours are not impact too late at night or too early in the morning.”

Ms Redelinghuys added: “Their concern is that the field is now going to be used more often then they are used to. Their concerns are not unreasonable. It is about change. Some of the feelings were that we didn’t care about heritage or the environment but that is absolutely untrue.”

She said that the school had one sports field which wasn’t big enough to host matches.

Ms Redelinghuys added that while there would be some seating erected, as well as moveable stands, the field would not be developed into a stadium. She stressed that the school had no plans to rent the facility out and that it would only be used by the two schools.

Project Manager, John May, said they were not changing the zoning or the use of the field.

However, in response to the residents’ concerns, the school had employed landscape artists and agreed to employ a conservationist.

The school also said formal consultation had been conducted with the surrounding neighbours to discuss the usage policy of the field.

“I don’t think the concerns are unfair. I think that any change is an issue,” Mr May said.

“We’ve agreed to make the bottom area into parking as a result of a direct plea from the neighbours. We’ve also agreed to have supervision there on match days – which will not be that frequently.”

Mr May said they expect the project to cost R14 million and were hoping to start construction next month.

They said the greatest use of the field would be in the winter season.

They are waiting for approval from the provincial government.