For many decades, public access to Green Point Common has been disorganised. The various areas of the Common were controlled by the respective leaseholders and access was impractical. The most widely explored area was the unkempt, open expanse around the old stadium, home each Sunday to the Green Point flea market.
The situation improved greatly with the development of the Green Point Stadium and Green Point Urban Park (GPUP). The GPUP provided a coherent public space and provided amuch needed pedestrian link between suburban Green Point and the waterfront. Between the World Cup and now, residents and dog walkershave also informally enjoyed the under-utilised sports fields.
There is a long historic precedent for public access to the coastal plain of Green Point Common. This claim stretches back further even than the formal grant of the Common in 1923to the City of Cape Town for recreation and sporting purposes. De vlaktegenaamdt de Groene Punt, has been public open space since the establishment of the Cape settlement in 1652.
However the department of Sport and Recreation recently re-enclosed the fields for which they are responsible, effectively cutting off free access to the greater area of the Common.
We recognise that the reasons behind this enclosure are sound, rational and defensible. Gert Bam, the director of the Department of Sports &Recreation summarises his department’s difficulties as follows:
- Dog mess on playing fields
- Intensive, informal, recreational use of fields by large teams causing damage
- Dogs chasing members of staff
- Vagrants sleeping on property and fouling and littering
- Criminals loitering on property and attacking legitimate users
However, this groundis not private property – it belongs to the public. To a certain extent all the problems of delinquency listed by the Director are shared, individually by each resident of this city. It is therefore worth noting the following two points:
- The City has refused any attempts by citizens of Cape Town to create access-controlled streets and form ad-hoc gated communities. Yet this is in effect exactly what the City has done to protect its own property interests– it has effectively createda gated community
- There are long standing rights of access that are violated by fencing off of the Common. Where access is permanently removed, the risk arises that these public rights will lapse, if not through formal legal prescription, then through custom.
The status quo provides entry to any parcel of Commonage to the members of whatever club holds the lease for that area. We note,however,that the most recently drafted lease, currently being offered to Hellenic, specifically states that reasonable access to the grounds must be provided by the leaseholder to all members of the public. This condition applies equally to all areas of the common.
What we need is a resolution that openly affirms thisoverarching public right of access to any area of the common. A powerful symbolic statement of this will be to create an open public walkway that links all the major leaseholder areas. A possible route is shown in yellow below.
A pathway such as this might not only resolve the extra-legal barring of leaseholder land to the public. It would also provide a valuable recreation and tourism asset for the City of Cape Town, linking the GPUP with the Waterfront’s proposed coastal walk through Granger Bay (shown in green).
Recalling theVOC company cattle that first grazed on the Common in the 17th century, and that cows remained an everyday sight until the 1930s, the walk linkshistoric pastureland at the starting point with an end pointnear the coastal battery of Fort Wynyard. We therefore propose to name the walk "Cow Bells to Gun Shells"!