More than a dozen residents of Hout Bay’s Bokkemanskloof area are hopping mad over the noise from the Clay Café’s trampoline park, which they say wasn’t in a plan the owners showed them before moving onto the site in 2016.
They say the trampoline park doesn’t have City approval, but Clay Café owners Christine Irving and Michael Bradburn say the building inspector has repeatedly told them that plans for children’s play structures are not necessary unless closer than 10 metres from the boundary.
However, mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Eddie Andrews says the City has issued several notices to the Clay Café for unauthorised climbing, trampoline and other structures. And the business is also being investigated for allegedly not sticking to conditions governing its parking.
Vikki Loles moved to Bokkemanskloof from Observatory for the peace of rural Hout Bay. She works from home as a writer but does so with her windows and doors closed.
“Seven days a week, from 9am to 5pm, we hear shrieking and screaming from children playing on a 40m, triple-tier trampoline park and two jumping castles. It’s like living next to an amusement park. We can’t even sit on our deck and read a book,” said Ms Loles.
When Sentinel arrived the only sound was the hum of constant traffic along the busy M63 below, occasionally punctuated by a hoot. But when we left half-an-hour later, the air was pierced by high-pitched shrieks, screams and shouting.
“When the owners approached neighbours for consent to move to the property once used by a plant nursery, the original business application was described as an educational ceramic-painting experience for children and families, with a gift shop and a restaurant. Instead, it is an events venue that focuses on children’s birthday parties and school groups,” said Ms Loles.
Micky Wiswedel also works from home in Bokkemanskloof and eventually moved his workspace to a room at the back of the house. He said he soon got used to the “white noise” of constant traffic but not the erratic screeching from the Clay Café below.
Terry Stephan owns the property directly abutting Clay Café. He said: “The persistent noise has made it difficult for me to rent out my property and earn a living. Just recently, I had another tenant move out because of the unbearable noise.”
Mr Stephan’s current tenant was hoping to find a quiet place to work but said it was far too noisy. She has been there since January and can see the children over the fence jumping and they can see into the garden. The children are particularly noisy at weekends, said the tenant.
Another neighbour, who wants to remain anonymous for fear of intimidation and backlash, said residents had signed their consent for the business in good faith and were disappointed by what had happened.
“We feel completely deceived. The owners came to our house and looked us in the eye and shook hands and promised they would respect the neighbourhood and especially noise because it was a big concern for us and we asked them about it especially.”
Mr Andrews said the owners need a noise-management plan and a test by a registered acoustic engineer.
The Western Cape Noise Control Regulations define a noise nuisance as “any sound which impairs or may impair the convenience or peace of a reasonable person. Unlike a noise disturbance, it may not exceed the allowable noise limit, but may be repetitive or constant noise.” Examples include unamplified noise, such as a human voice (shouting, screaming); intermittent noise such as house parties; alarms; domestic disputes etc.
The regulations note that this type of noise should be reported to law enforcement or to the local environmental sub-district.
Mayoral committee member for community services and health Patricia van der Ross said the City’s environmental health department was aware of three complaints, but the department’s noise-control unit had found the noise from the venue was sporadic, and “disturbing noise” did not apply to unamplified human voices as defined by the Western Cape Noise Regulations.
Ms Irving and Mr Bradburn were unable to meet with Sentinel News last week but responded by email to questions and background information sent to them.
Clay Café Hout Bay general manager Julie Ragavelas said they were not aware that the City had done a noise test. “However we have had our own noise-assessment report commissioned at great expense over two consecutive Saturdays – our busiest day – and at peak times. The report found that we were well within the accepted noise levels that constitute a disturbance.”
The report, she said, had been forwarded to ward councillor Roberto Quintas’s office.
“We have never had a noise fine issued against us,” she added. “In fact, the police officers who are called out on weekends, sometimes three or four times a day, and from as far afield as Llandudno, are thoroughly sick and tired of this saga. They feel that their time is being wasted. We are constantly being requested by them to open a case of harassment against the complainants.”
Hout Bay police did not confirm this by the time of going to print.
Ms Ragavelas said they had had no fines issued for the trampolines and their trading licence permitted two evening events a week.
“Out of respect for our neighbours, we have never abused this privilege. In fact in the past year, we have only had two evening functions, both until 9.30pm, and both ‘sedate ladies sip and paint evenings’ with no loud music.”
Mr Quintas said that, in an effort to mediate, he had arranged for the Clay Café management and the complainants to meet.
“The City has on several occasions visited the site to confirm noise levels, which have not been found excessive at any inspection, and the owners are addressing building issues as per the City’s processes,” he said.
The owners said that after meeting with the residents they had reduced children’s parties from 16 a weekend to four and had also hosted smaller groups with a maximum of 24 people including the adults, so most parties had no more than 12 children.
“This is a huge reduction of income for us as many parents want the whole class, and we do not accommodate that many so we lose a lot of business,” the owners said in an emailed response to questions.
They accused some of the neighbours of abusing the Clay Café’s staff, including shouting at a security officer and driving onto the property and sitting with their hand on the hooter.
Ms Irving and Mr Bradburn sent a report by Mackenzie Hoy Consulting Acoustics Engineers stating that a test done last August found the daytime ambient noise level to be 60.8 A-weighted decibels (dBA), which did not exceed the allowable day-time noise-level limit of 67 dBA and complied with the requirements of the Western Cape Noise Control Regulations..