Creche gets notice to shut down

The City of Cape Town has issued a notice to Wonderland Educare, in Milton Road, Goodwood, to shut its doors, the latest development in a long-standing battle which has already made a turn in the Western Cape High Court.

The City says the educare is contravening planning by-laws because it needed consent use approval, which had already been turned down.

The owner of Wonderland Educare, Ria Theron, said she is the victim of a personal vendetta that has cost her business thousands of rands.

The City had turned down an appeal by Ms Theron, which she took under review to the high court in February last year. The court ordered that a new appeal hearing be held, as the initial appeal committee’s decision had not been impartial.

Meanwhile, a parallel process has been running in the municipal court all along because Ms Theron does not have planning permission to run the creche at its present location.

Wonderland opened in Milton Road in July 2010, and it now has 58 children. Ms Theron said finding the premises had been an “answer to prayer”, and no other property in Goodwood was suitable for the daycare, which she said met a need in the community.

“I would not want any daycare to close because there is a need in the area,” she said.

Ms Theron said she had been taken to the municipal court many times, and the latest notice, issued on Monday February 13 had warned her that she faced a fine of up to R800 000.

The property is zoned single residential, and the initial consent use application was lodged in 2011. The City turned it down citing residents’ objections about noise levels and a lack of parking as reasons.

Next door neighbour Randall Caswell said he had made sure there were no shops, schools or businesses nearby when he had bought his property. He had not been the only resident to object to the daycare, he said. Ms Theron said there had been two objections during the first circulation, and four objections the second time the application was advertised.

“Where I chose to live has changed. Now we’re talking about over a hundred people that access the property next door,” Mr Caswell said.

He said his objection to the creche was not “personal”, but he was unhappy about the increased and increased traffic. “I’m not angry at her or trying to spite her. But let us obey the laws of the country,” Mr Caswell said.

He also accused the City of being “toothless” in the way it had handled the matter, which had dragged on for seven years.

“It is unacceptable that someone can run a business for seven years without approval,” he said.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said a place of instruction needed the approval of a consent use by council. Wonderland Educare’s land use application had been considered at sub-council level, then by the planning and general appeals committee, but “the reasons for the refusal related to the desirability of the activity”, he said

If Wonderland continued to operate without planning approval, the matter could end up back in the Western Cape High Court, he said.