Hold up on hub

Local teens have built a pump track on a portion of the vacantland that the City of Cape Town has threatened to flatten aspermission was not sought.

A Table View ward councillor has urged the City to use a piece of public land in her ward or risk losing it to land grabbers.

Dr Joy Solomon is referring to a Study Street site, about the size of five rugby fields, that she and businesswoman Ursula Ostuni have been trying to develop for the better part of eight years.

Dr Solomon said the Table View Urban Farming Co. (TUFCO) was started by a group of Table View residents in 2012 to promote sustainable farming on the site.

Tufco is a non-profit organisation promoting permaculture. It aims to grow organic produce on the site – which is zoned community open space – by creating a food forest.

A food forest consists of various edible plants and mimics natural ecosystems.

Dr Solomon, Ms Ostuni and others had subsequently proposed developing a “community hub” that would also include, among other things, an open-air gym, a zipline, a training centre, a BMX track and an open-air auditorium.

In the meantime, local teens have built a pump track on part of the site, bordering Janssens Avenue. The City has threatened to demolish the track, saying it was built without permission and poses a hazard.

Dr Solomon said donors were lined up to fund the construction of all the proposed facilities, so it wouldn’t cost the City anything.

The teens had “illustrated a need for a pump track”, she said, adding that depending on the plans for the site, it would either be moved or worked around.

But after eight years of meetings with “a succession of officials” the proposal remained in limbo, said Dr Solomon.

She had proposed a public/private partnership deal to get the project going and had allocated R250 000 from her ward budget for the stormwater harvesting that would be needed for the food forest, but the City had still not given approval, she said.

“We either get no response or are told no very easily, but no concrete suggestions or alternatives are offered to get this project moving,” she said.

Ms Ostuni a permaculturalist and Tufco member, said they had been sent from pillar to post with their proposal.

The land was perfect for a food garden that would make the community self-sustainable.

“The idea is to grow everything indigenous and familiar to us. The idea is what the community grows the community shares,” said Ms Ostuni.

A local landscaper, the Greater Table View Action Forum (GTAF) and the Table View Neighbourhood Watch (TVNW) were among those supporting the plan, said Ms Ostuni.

She estimated the cost of the project to be between R3.5 to R4 million, but said it could be half the amount due to sponsorship.

“It really depends on how much support we get from the community. If enough community members come on board, we won’t pay that much for labour for example,” she said.

Table View resident Mark Vaughn said the community had few outdoor recreational areas.

“In the current times of Covid where people are forced to spend more time with their children, it’s become very clear how little outdoor recreational areas the City actually provides.

“So unless you have the finances to join a club or gym, you can’t even go out with your friends and build a little bike track to keep yourself entertained.”

It was a good time for the City to show the community it cared and understood the pressure many parents and children were under he said.

“Possibly look at ‘leasing’ the bike track land to the community, the same way the City leases huge tracts of land to golf clubs around Cape Town at a couple thousand rand a year,” he said.

A video proposal is in the works to sell the community hub concept to officials.

“There’s a real need for a central community hub where adults, neighbours and kids can interact with each other and get to know small businesses which will be good for the economy,” Ms Ostuni said.

Dr Solomon said job seekers were well aware of the vacant land.

“Given the current political climate and the City’s inability to defend our land, this huge tract of land runs a very real risk of being occupied one night. Now is the time or this valuable community site might be lost overnight,” she said.

The City did not respond to questions by the time this edition went to print.