Residents oppose tented church plan

The proposal calls for five tents, one of them is 8m high and 800m2.

The Constantia Hills community will soon know if it will have a tented church in its midst.

The Cape Academy of Maths, Sciences and Technology’s planning application to lease land to Common Ground Church is to be heard at a Municipal Planning Tribunal meeting on Tuesday November 17.

Marian Nieuwoudt, mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, said the application had drawn 27 objections and two letters of support/comment.

The Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CRRA) and the Constantia Hills Ratepayers’ Association (CHRA) have both objected.

The CRRA’s manager, John Hesom, said its land-use subcommittee had commented on the application in February and would probably make an oral submission at the tribunal meeting.

The vacant land is on the corner of Firgrove and Spaanschemat River roads. To the north of the site and across Firgrove Road is a large, open field bordered by Spaanschemat River Road.

To the west, is Constantia Uitsig, to the south are some old farm cottages and Tokai Park, and to the east is the Constantia Hills community.

Both busy roads are used for walking, cycling, dog walking and horse-riding, particularly on weekends.

The planning application calls for a temporary departure from utility zoning to permit five tents to be used as a place of worship and instruction on a five-year lease.

Two shade tents and 74 parking bays are planned against the western boundary, close to Spaanschemat River Road. These will form part of a total 147 parking bays. The school presently has 39.

Angie Naidu, principal of Cape Academy, said the toilet block presently standing on the vacant land would be restored as part of the application.

The CRRA believes the five-year lease will even tually become permanent.

It says the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) has given the area Grade 1 status for “having resources with qualities so exceptional that they are of special national significance”.

The CRRA argues the application is incompatible with the surrounding area and its uses.

It is also worried about noise from additional traffic and amplified electronic sound.

The proposal will allow for up to 800 churchgoers three times on Sundays with other events on Saturday and a three-day annual conference.

CHRA chairman Harry Cowley said at least one of the tents would stand over 8m high and cover 800m2 and had no architectural presence in keeping with the surrounding area.

The auditorium tent would be at the north boundary, along Firgrove Road, with sound being directed from speakers toward the community rather than into the property itself.

“The motivation proposes to use amplified sound at every large event and at most other meetings held in the large auditorium tent.”

The school would also use the auditorium tent for assemblies of several hundred pupils and would also use amplified sound, he said.

CHRA also noted that the open green field across from the school and Firgrove Road would become off-site informal parking. That was already happening in the afternoons when minibus taxis congregated for hours under the trees across

from the school, Mr Cowley said.

Ms Naidu said the application had been on hold because of Covid-19.

The money made from leasing the site to the church would benefit the school, she said.

“The school has a good relationship with the church and having them here will aid the spiritual upliftment of the children staying in our hostels,” she said.

Gerhard van der Merwe, director of the South African office of Engineering Ministries International, applied on behalf of the Cape Academy and Common Ground Church to put up the tents next to the school buildings.

The tents would serve as a place of worship on Sundays and a place of instruction during the week.

“It will also be a much needed financial injection into the school which urgently requires these expanded facilities for their learners,” he said.