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Residents not thrilled

Residents near Kuils River Technical High School are upset about the development of an astroturf soccer facility on the school’s terrain.

Residents in especially Altenberg Street whose backyards are bordering on the school’s terrain and in Driebergen Street opposite the school’s main entrance, said they have had long term issues with traffic and taxis blocking their driveways, noise (music being played loudly) and security with learners occasionally trespassing on private property.

Residents say they were not approached by the school before construction vehicles arrived next door.

Some were at first excited to see part of the school’s erf being cleared as they thought it might be for additional parking.

Vernon Snyders said when he became aware of the work, he enquired with the school’s principal Quintin Pick who told him it will be an astroturf for five-a-side soccer.

Rodney and Florence Bingo said they received a letter from the school (dated 29 August) on Monday 2 September informing them of a meeting on 5 September.

They said the meeting was postponed on short notice to 9 September and apparently not all of the residents received the letters.

The meeting did not go well. Rodney said Pick started by saying he wanted to inform the residents of how the development will take place.

“I asked him whether this wasn’t the wrong way to start with such a big development – without any input from the residents who will be affected?”

Snyders consequently approached the Metro North education district circuit manager Francois Lubbe. Another meeting with a group of residents, Pick, Lubbe and two representatives of the school governing body was held on 19 September.

In feedback sent to TygerBurger the residents said ongoing issues they have had with the school were raised before but has not been addressed by the school.

This included ‘‘taxis dropping learners off standing around playing loud music’’ and “learners dwelling around drinking, smoking, performing other activities and tossing evidence into residents’ yards’’. 

They are worried about the level of control at the facility as it will also be used by external users and they feel control is already lacking.

TygerBurger sent an enquiry to the City as the residents said none of the following aspects were considered: 

  • no environmental impact study;
  • no community participation;
  • increased noise pollution;
  • no traffic impact study was done;
  • time frame during which the facility would be open – until 23:00 in the week and open on Saturdays; and
  • freedom of movement of the residents would be impacted.

    The Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt said the site is zoned “community zoning 1” which permits a place of instruction which includes a school and ancillary uses such as boarding hostels or sport fields.

    Given that the current zoning allows the planned land use there are no need for public participation, an environmental impact assessment or a traffic impact study. 

    Nieuwoudt said the submission of a building plan application is also not required for the construction of a sports field.

    All land uses must still comply with the City’s noise bylaw, but the City’s development management scheme does not include restrictions on the hours of operation for a place of instruction, which the erf is zoned for, she said.

    Pick who’s been the school’s principal since 2012 said the school moved to the current site around 12 years ago. He said from the time he started at the school he was keen to develop the school’s terrain as the overgrown open ground did not reflect positively on the school. 

    Pick said a few years ago the estimate cost to develop the terrain was around R3 million but neither the education department or a private entity could assist. This changed last year when the school was approached by a private sector entity who offered to partner with the school to develop the terrain.

    Pick said historically there were neighbours in the immediate vicinity who were against the development of the school in the neighbourhood. “The biggest problem the neighbours have is the transport of the learners and the chaos that occurs in the half hour before and after school.” Pick said he does not want to be insensitive but most schools are in residential areas and this will be the situation at certain times which residents will have to endure.

    Pick said during the consultation process the school did enquire with the municipality whether there was a need for a community consultation process. He was told such a process did happen before the initial zoning and building of the school.

    Pick said he was approached by the local ratepayers’ and residents’ association (Hirra) who suggested he call a meeting with the residents to inform them of the development plans.

    This first meeting was chaotic, said Pick. The second meeting coordinated by the MNED circuit manager (Lubbe), went a lot better, but the project has been put on hold, he said. ‘‘We’ve been told due to the size of the project we need approval from the minister of education.” Pick is not sure how long this will take, but said all the necessary documentation has been sent to the minister’s office.

    Currently the soil preparation – the clearing and levelling of the site, has been completed. 

    “The private entity came to us and said they will do everything, the school will not have to pay a cent,” said Pick. The school will have use of the facility until 15:00 where after the developer will use it until 23:00.

    The plans make provision for a parking area with 42 spaces. A gate will provide access to overflow parking on the existing parking area of the school (20 spaces). Pick is positive there will be no need to park in front of residents’ driveways. 

    Regarding concerns of residents having their privacy invaded, Pick said there won’t be any pavilion stands, but elevated seating down the length of the fields not facing the houses. Development will start off with only one field for a period of six months. “We are going to see how things go and whether there are any issues, before continuing with the second field.” 

    Pick said there will be security at the site and no alcohol will be allowed. ‘‘Now we just have to wait on the department for the go-ahead.’’ 

    “From the school’s side we’ve done what we could to take the neighbours in consideration, but some will never by content with having the school right here in the community,” said Pick. He said there will be another meeting with the community.

    TygerBurger sent an enquiry to the eduacation department but did not receive a response.
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