Fury as 13m cell tower gets green light

Thirteen residents have objected to rezoning in Rondebosch that will pave the way for a 13 metre cell mast.

Rondebosch residents have vowed to fight a City of Cape Town decision that will make it possible to put up a 13m-high cell tower in Milner Road.

At least 13 residents objected to an application to rezone a portion of a Milner Road property from “single residential” to “utility” to permit the building of a free-standing base telecommunication station, comprising of one “omnidirectional antenna” mounted on a 12m-high flag pole-type mast.

However the Municipal Planning Tribunal has dismissed the objections and given the cell mast the green light. Residents are furious.

Danal Holmes who recently moved her new home in Columbine Road, said: “We would most certainly not have bought it had we known of the proposal to erect a telecommunication tower around the corner from us.

“I will expect to be compensated for the loss in value of our newly purchased residence should this plan go ahead.”

When Marc Kannemeyer heard about the application, he lodged an objection immediately.

“I would like to understand why there is a need for the tower and the purpose it would serve,” he said, claiming residents had not been adequately informed about the application.

“Apparently there was a notice attached to the gate on the property, but no flyers were sent out. Previously, I recall receiving a registered letter to ensure people are notified.”

According to the planning tribunal, an application for a rooftop base telecommunication station was submitted in October 2016. It proposed fixing the antenna to the roof of the building, which is more than 60 years old, at the property. That application was withdrawn before it was advertised.

The current application for rezoning to permit a free-standing base telecommunication station was then submitted and advertised by registered mail in June last year with “no objections” received at the time of closing.

However, the City said it was aware that a “number of neighbours” had not been notified about the application due to a “technical error” that saw the notices “prematurely recalled”.

The application was re-advertised by registered mail in May 2017 and as a result, 13 objections and one letter of support were submitted to the City.

Colin Crook is another resident who feels the objections from those living near the “monstrosity” were “disregarded”.

He said the planning tribunal maintained the tower would not be unsightly. He disagrees. “This is nonsense, and is not the opinion of the residents living in the area.”

It was also “nonsense”, he said, for the tribunal to say the tower would not devalue nearby properties.

“When we asked to be able to address the tribunal and to provide documentary evidence supporting our contention that the tower would result in the devaluation of our surrounding properties, we were refused permission to do so. The tribunal informs us that such an application may not be refused on the grounds that the value of a property will be affected. This is outrageous.”

He said residents would appeal the municipality’s decision.

“We neither want, nor need an MTN Tower of Babel in our residential area.”

Another resident, Graeme Gloak, fears electromagnetic radiation from the tower can cause cancer.

“These units should not be permitted in a suburban area,” he said.

He said he had heard about the application after being handed a notice “over the wall” by his neighbour.

“We feel the correct processes were not followed and that the go-ahead has been done in a very premature manner.”

The tribunal said Mr Gloak’s health concerns were unfounded because the telecommunication antenna “radiates most of its energy to the horizon and the resultant radiation towards other regions is minimal”.

Furthermore the intensity of the radiation would be set to “guidelines that will ensure minimal health impact” and the energy level of radio frequency waves was “relatively low” compared to those that caused cancer.

“Radio frequency waves cannot be concentrated enough to affect body tissue,” the tribunal said.

The tribunal also downplayed fears the application would devalue properties.

Tribunal chairman Dave Daniels said the application to rezone the Milner Road property had been approved and was now at the “right of appeal stage”.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said the application had been “widely advertised”.

BJB Project Services made the application on behalf of MTN. BJB’s Gertruida Magdalena Swanepoel said Rondebosch needed more coverage, not for only growing cellular users but also for user of new wireless technology. Every effort had been made, she said, to avoid a “proliferation of masts” in the area and for the design of the “flag pole” mast to blend in.

“Communication is a contemporary human right and has improved many lives in terms of security, contacting emergency services, economic accessibility over and above the leisure aspect of the service,” she said.

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