Anger over cell mast plan

A cell mast is being proposed for a portion of land in Rohm Road in Goodwood.

A civic group is opposing a City of Cape Town plan to lease land near two Goodwood schools and an old-age home to a cell-mast company.

The City stands to make more than R10 000 a month out of the proposed 10-year lease to Atlas Towers, but the Goodwood Ratepayers’ Association says residents are fuming, and it will submit an objection this week to block the plan. The site is in Rohm Road (Erf 8145). If leased to Atlas Towers, it would pave the way for a cell mast to go up near Goodwood Park Primary School, Klein Tygerdal Pre-Primary School and Protea Old Age Home.

According to a municipal notice in a daily paper on Friday June 22, Atlas Towers would build “telecommunications infrastructure” on the 70m2 plot, leased from the City at R10 708 a month.

Faizel Petersen, chairman of the Goodwood Ratepayers’ Association, said the City should have consulted with residents who were already worried about possible health risks from several cell masts in the area. “This particular cell mast is set to be located next to Goodwood Park Primary School, next to the Protea Old Age Home and Klein Tygerdal Pre-Primary School. Therefore regardless of what emissions are estimated, we need to look at these eyesores daily. I therefore am not in support of this project, particularly because the City fails to reach out to the community of Goodwood and engage them on the project.

“If the towers are safe, give the community that assurance opposed to an advert in a newspaper that most residents don’t buy, as Goodwood has a lot of pensioners and the other working class cannot afford a newspaper, as the VAT, fuel and service charges by the City are leading the residents to poverty,” he said.

Meanwhile a new organisation started last month to fight cell masts going up in residential areas, especially near creches, schools and old homes.

According to Derek Main, from The National Alliance Against Cell Masts (NAACM), it sprang up out of his own neighbourhood’s struggle against a cell mast.

“My community in Kirstenhof are also fighting off a cell mast (one of three in our area). In researching for my objection, I realised there must be hundreds of communities in South Africa fighting exactly the same battle. I contacted Niki Moore, who has been running the Durban Anti-Cell Mast Alliance for many years, with a view to pooling our resources and efforts. She agreed, and the idea of NAACM was born.

“I have since been in touch with many other communities affected, and many of these, from all over the country, have signed up on our website,” he said.

He believes cell masts are not good for communities. Apart the health risks he claims are associated with long-term exposure to electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation, he says the masts also lower property values, are an eyesore, infringe on privacy and can pit neighbour and against neighbour over whether they are blight or a boon.

He sympathises with the Goodwood residents but says their situation is not unique.

“We are fighting against the installing of three cell masts in my tiny suburb and many other communities have similar stories.

“We are all faced with a public-participation process where the odds are stacked against communities and the process is basically a sham.

“It is for this reason that we feel the only way to tackle this is collectively.

“I would implore the Goodwood residents to join us by registering on our website. There is strength in numbers. They should contact us and we will help them where we can or, at least, point them in the right direction.”

Atlas Towers spokesman Wian von Solms said that at this stage they applied only to lease the site, not to put up a mast.

“In the event that we do lodge an application with council, all affected parties will be duly notified and will be able to partake in the public participation process,” he said.

Ward 27 councillor Cecile Janse van Rensburg said the City’s application had been discussed at last week’s meeting of the Goodwood Ratepayers’ Association and the public were welcome to object through the proper channels.

Asked to respond to criticism that many would not have seen notice of the application in daily newspapers, she said: “I am not going to respond at this time.”

Monday July 23 is the deadline to lodge comments and objections to email or call 021 400 4168 for more information.