Ire over approval of cell mast

The City of Cape Town went back on a decision to stop a cell mast being built next to a Goodwood convenience store without telling residents, says a civic group.

Fuming members of the Goodwood Ratepayers’ Association say they only learnt of the City’s about-turn after a resident noticed work starting on the mast next to the OK Mini-Mart, at 96 Vasco Boulevard.

Faizel Petersen, the association’s chairman, said the City’s Municipal Planning Tribunal (MPT) had turned down the application for a 25m-high cell mast and base station on March 14 last year, after the association had argued that the mast would ruin the look of the area and that there were five existing or proposed masts within 500m radius of the site.

But then Mark Raciet, a resident who had led much of the opposition to the mast, emailed Mr Petersen and Ward 27 councillor Cecile Janse van Rensburg two weeks ago, telling them work had started on the mast. And he had only found out after passing by the OK Mini Mart.

Mr Petersen said he and Ms Janse van Rensburg had made enquires and learned that the “objection was appealed and
(permission) granted by mayor Patricia de Lille and no communication was sent out to the complainants”.

It turned out, he said, that the cell mast applicants, Warren Pettersen Planners, had approached the Mayor’s Advisory Panel on Thursday August 3 last year to overturn the planning tribunal’s finding in favour of the residents.

On Wednesday August 3, Ms De Lille had approved the mast, albeit a slightly shorter one (21m instead of 25m), and base station, as well as a relaxation of the street building line from 4.5m to 0m.

Mr Petersen said this had angered some residents” and made them feel that the City, and in particular the mayor’s office, had ignored the public’s objections and failed to consult.

“No engagements were held to discuss and come to a conclusion. An executive decision was made and the contractor got the go ahead,” he said.

Mr Petersen said he had complained to ward councillors that residents were being kept out of the loop about property rights as well as details about ward projects and budgets.

“This information is no longer shared at the ratepayers’ meetings, and there is a lack of public engagement with residents about issues that pertain to them. Decisions are made within the ward committees without input from ratepayers.

“There needs to be a more consultative approach when dealing with these matters in order for the true views of the residents and the ratepayers to be heard,” Mr Petersen said.

In an email to Chad Newman, the City’s section head of land use management, Ms Janse van Rensburg said residents were concerned about the mast going ahead. “According to their knowledge, The MPT refused the application on 14 March 2017.”

Mr Newman, in his response on Tuesday March 6, noted that the Appeal Authority had upheld the applicant’s appeal and that Mr Raciet had been informed of the decision – something Mr Raciet denies.

On Tuesday March 6, Mr Raciet wrote to Ms Janse van Rensburg expressing his dismay that the mast was going ahead.

“We the concerned residents of Goodwood have put in writing to the City our disapproval for the building of a proposed mast at the above address. The City initially agreed with residents and later refused the application,” he said.

Mr Raciet said neither the councillors nor the ratepayers’ association had been notified about the successful appeal for the cell mast.

“What qualification does mayor De Lille have to override a decision made by a qualified team of people in the MPT? What’s the point of an appeal then? It seems they just follow the process to cover their backs. The final decision letter was ‘supposedly’ sent to affected residents by registered post, which I did not receive. It would have not made any difference as there was no further grounds or option to appeal. I’d like to see a mast like this go up next to De Lille’s house, would it be okay then?” he said.

Warren Pettersen said his firm had been contracted by Atlas Towers

“to ensure that the application goes through the proper channels. We worked closely with the municipality to make sure that everyone was happy including the community”.

He said he was aware that residents had concerns about the mast.

“The appeal process was quite rigorous and residents had numerous opportunities during that process to voice their concerns,” he said.

Mr Pettersen said the application had been presented at the MPT, where it had been refused. “We then appealed this decision. A report was drafted which was presented to the Appeals Authority. The Appeals Authority is where the mayor makes the final decision based on the MPT’s findings. The reason for the appeal against this decision was also submitted by us. This decision is then final,” he added.

“The City is very pro-technology and communication and they would never have approved the application if they thought it was bad for the area because the roll-out of telecommunication structures is in line with the City’s overall objectives,” he said.