Cellphone mast opposed

Karen Pretorius

Monte Vista residents have opposed an application to build a cell tower at a crèche, citing fears of health risks posed by electro-magnetic radiation.

The residents are also un-happy about the visual impact of the 15m-high tower on the neighbourhood.

The application to build the cell tower on the premises of the Boulevard Play and Baby Centre (erf 235) was submitted to the City of Cape Town by Warren Petterson Planners (WPP), on behalf of Telkom Mobile.

The 31-day public comment period ended on Monday April 18.

Warren Petterson, of WPP, said the application includes rezoning the property from single residential to utility zone and a permanent regulation departure, to allow a “telecommunications base station”.

Residents argue the site is surrounded by single-storey homes, and a cell tower “will be intrusive to the current residential skyline with its imposing height”. The structure will be ringed by a 2.4m palisade fence.

“The geographical area of the proposed structure is flat with no tall structures which could allow for the visual integration of the proposed structure. The location is not only immediately adjacent to school classrooms, but also within three to five metres of the boundary walls of residential dwellings,” a petition by Monte Vista residents reads.

Johan van der Merwe, the City’s mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, confirmed it had received the application to rezone a 9m2 portion of the property and erect the tower.

He also said the City had been hit with a stack of objections from surrounding property owners.

In the petition, residents say they are all for improving telecommunications in Monte Vista, but the tower must be built somewhere else. They suggest N1 City or the nearby Goodwood prison grounds.

“This will allow the proposed infrastructure to be accommodated within existing existing commercial, business or government infrastructure and serve a wider geographical infrastructure and serve a wider geographical area such as parts of Goodwood, Monte Vista and Edgemead,” they said.

But Mr Petterson, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said N1 City shopping centre “is nearly 1 000m away”. He also claimed the planned cell tower had various benefits.

“New LTE (4G technology) technology provides faster internet to an increased number of users which alleviates the pressure on the various base stations. However, the range of this technology is very limited. A single old generation GSM (Global Systems for Mobile communications) voice-based base station could cover an area within a radius of 1 km. The new LTE base stations have a much smaller range, sometimes as little as 200m,” he said.

But in their objections, which they handed in at Goodwood municipality on Monday April 18, residents said while the technology was needed, the location was problematic and posed a health risk to the community.

“”I am very concerned that the City of Cape Town is considering the installation of a telecommunications base station with the known health risks associated with the radiation from a cellphone tower. Firstly next to a school and secondly in a residential aea where the impact of the radiation on innocent children, teachers and residents are (sic) ignored,” they said in the petition.

On their Facebook page, the Monte Vista Ratepayers’ Association (MVRA) posted details of the application but said it had not been formally approached about it.

“We received the information from one of the residents that received a letter from the City of Cape Town. Only the residents around the property received letters, should they wish to object,” said Riana de Wet of the Ratepayers’ Association.

MVRA chairman Pierre Gouws said feedback from the community showed peopled were unhappy with the proposal. He said it was unfair of the creche owners to subject the community to this, because they wanted to secure the rental from the base station. He said it would especially impact residents in Monte Vista Boulevard and Berghorst Street behind it.

He said that four or five years ago Monte Vista residents had had the same problem when a cell tower had been built on the grounds of theDutch Reformed Church in Buitendag Street. Fierce opposition from resident had forced the cellphone company to remove it.

While they were not against progress, the issue of cellphone towers “are very controversial”, Mr Gouws said, referring to the health fears of residents. “No one has proven anything, but it is very controversial. I wouldn’t want my kids to go to a creche where they will have a magnet running above their heads,” he said.

Co-owner of Boulevard Play and Baby Centre, Desiree Opperman, said nothing had been finalised yet. “The community can rest assured that we will not proceed if it is in any way harmful to the community, and children,” she said.