A range of development opportunities is being investigated to “rationalise and improve” Kenilworth Racecourse, which has seen a significant drop
in attendance figures, in recent years.
While a notice of intent to develop was already submitted to Heritage Western Cape in August last year, many members of the public are largely unaware of the proposals, which include the addition of a hotel on the land between Rosmead Avenue and the grandstand, which would link up to the grandstand.
However, Nigel Burls, a director at MLH Architects, commissioned to attend to town planning-related issues related to the application, revealed that a land use applcation had also been submitted and advertised in November 2015, and the period for public comment had closed a month ago.
Aside from the hotel, numerous other development activities are contained in the notice of intent, submitted by Grand Parade Investments, GPI Properties (Pty) Ltd and Kenilworth Racing (Pty) Ltd:
l Horse racing facilities are to be concentrated around the grandstand, parade ring and stables. Maintenance facilities and the offices for the Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area (KRCA) are to be relocated within the track and provision is to be made for parking and hospitality facilities for “classic race days”, within the track but outside of the KRCA.
l Through the linking of the hotel with the grandstand, a “far more positive” street interface than is the situation currently, will be provided.
l The orginal Jockey Room will be converted into a restaurant which will link to the hotel.
l The area located between the existing access road off Rosmead Avenue and proposed hotel site is intended for mixed retail and commercial purposes.
l The original stables to the south of the Jockey Room and hotel site, along with the parade ring and other racecourse amenities are to be refurbished and new stables upgraded.
In addition, the area to the south of this is proposed for high density high rise residential units.
In the notice, the applicants say there has been a “notable shift” in attendance at the racecourse in recent times with only the classic events – like the J&B Met – attracting crowds of significance as the races were now televised to punters, meaning they no longer needed to be at the venue itself.
Mr Burls said the Kenilworth Ratepayers’ Association had been consulted on the development.
“We received two letters during the comment period. One of those letters did not relate to the development, while the other raised some concerns about traffic in the area. We will now be responding to those comments and submitting them to council,” Mr Burls said.
Ward 58 councillor Matthew Kempthorne said it was still “really early days” for the proposed development.
“The developers will then have to apply for rezoning, a process that could take between 18 months to two years. And as it is now, the proposal has not even gone through any official City channels,” he said.
“What I have heard is that it makes provision for about 100 residential units as well as a boutique hotel, but as I say, it’s still very early days. Obviously the City would ensure that the ecology of the area would be looked after were the development to go ahead.”
Asked why the notice of intent had already been submitted to Heritage Western Cape a year ago, Mr Kempthorne said this was normal practice in terms of development proposals.
“Obviously Kenilworth Racecourse is an old landmark in the city, so the developers would need to ensure they are not transgressing in this respect.”
However, questions have been raised over the proposed developments, particularly in respect of the impact they might have on the ecologically-sensitive KRCA. The area is regarded as the best example of Cape Flats Sand Fynbos remaining in the Cape Peninsula, while it is also home to at least 16 seasonal wetlands and 310 plant species, of which 34 are threatened and one is endemic.
“I only learnt about these proposals a few months ago, but I still have very little information on this development,” said Margaret Kahle, of the Friends of the Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area.
“It has very much been under the radar, and I was shocked when I first heard about it. The one aspect for me is that in recent years there have been moves for various bodies to take stewardship of conservation areas. If this is preserved in perpetuity then that is different. But the conservation area is very sensitive, and there would need to be minimal impact on it.”
Mrs Kahle said she was also concerned about the impact of increased traffic in the area should the development go ahead.
“I have been under the impression that there will be increased housing, but Rosmead Avenue is already congested. I do understand that Kenilworth Racing has had hard times as well, however. I do appreciate that there is a need for development, but I think the public needs to be informed of what’s happening. The last thing we want to see is bulldozers moving in overnight.”
Pete Linnegar, chairperson of the Kenilworth Residents’ Association, was unavailable for comment.
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