Cape farm may move for guest house

By Anel Lewis Time of article published Jul 5, 2013

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Cape Town - An informal “foster farm” that has operated in the heart of Tamboerskloof for almost 20 years will have to make way for a guest house, VIP accommodation and a conference centre if plans to develop the SANDF-owned land are approved.

But artist Andre Laubscher, who started off as a caretaker and now runs the farm, remained hopeful that this latest bid to convert the prime land into an upmarket mixed-use development would come to nought.

He said he was accustomed to uncertainty, having been served with numerous eviction orders and threats of removal to make way for new developments over the past two decades.

Erf 81, a prime piece of land on the slopes of Signal Hill, is home to various animals including rabbits, goats, ducks, geese and frogs. A portion provides stables for the mounted police.

It has served as a refuge for abandoned children, including an 11-month-old baby, and adults.

Swings and tyres for children to play on hang from trees. This weekend, the farm will host 40 children from the Thabang Cultural Group who will spend a week there learning about the animals and about farming.

Laubscher said that while many of his neighbours appreciated his efforts to create a semi-rural refuge within the city, there were those who complained about the mess and the lack of security.

He admitted that the farm was a bit unkempt, but said children loved spending time with the animals in a natural environment.

Councillor Taki Amira, subcouncil chairman for the area, said the farm was a “haven” for people involved in illegal activities.

“We would welcome any development on that land.”

Amira said that as the land was owned by the national government, there was no obligation for the defence force to engage with the community or the municipality. “We hope that there is proper consultation with those who will be affected.”

He added that while a development would be a move in the right direction, it would be more beneficial if the land was sold for private development so that the money could be used more constructively.

The Department of Defence has appointed the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to work on the concept drawings for two defence endowment properties.

A new 150-room luxury hotel is being mooted for the Fort Wynard site in Green Point. It will also have six suites and two penthouses. The laboratory buildings will be turned into bistros and cafes.

Fort Wynard was declared a national monument in 1976 and it is a Provincial Heritage Site. It lies between the V&A Waterfront and the Cape Town Stadium. Its raised embankment offers clear views of the harbour which are protected by stringent heritage restrictions.

The grand plan for the Tamboerskloof land includes the conversion of the Tamboerskloof Magazine, a national monument, into a conference facility.

There will be a state guest house with more than 30 rooms and self-catering units. Military veterans will be housed in an old age home on the site. This will include rooms for single and married veterans, as well as a medical station and offices.

A communal kitchen will service the guest house, conference facility and old age home, as well as the five houses for “VIPs”.

Another artist who has a workshop and studio on the site, John Nankin, said on Laubscher’s Facebook page that the planned development was a “cynical appropriation of the city council’s mixed income housing proposal of a few years back”. He added: “I wonder how long it will be before they succeed in moving us out.”

Cape Argus

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