An application to build a 25-metre high communication pole with 12 antennae on Fish Hoek’s Historic Mile has been vehemently rejected by residents and business owners alike – and their petition describing their objections has been signed by more than 110 supporters.
The deadline for public participation was Wednesday May 11, according to Johan van der Merwe, the City’s Mayco member for energy, environmental and spatial planning.
The applicant, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) will now have the opportunity to comment on the objections received. If approved, the base station and four equipment containers, would be located diagonally opposite the Casa Labia, and right in front of Eckard and Anke Polter’s home.
The petition was launched by Casa Labia, and Mr Polter outlined the points on it for the False Bay Echo.
“Normally these poles are eight to 10 metres. This is one is planned to be 25 metres, and to accommodate that extreme height, the pole will need to be considerably thicker too,” Mr Eckard said.
He said it had been quite confusing to residents who to contact about objections, but that 110 people had put their names to a multi-levelled objection.
“Besides our personal interest in the objection, as living opposite the planned mast, there are other, bigger issues at stake that need comment,” Mr Polter said.
He started with the negative visual impact.
“The pole is positioned at the Main Road and in immediate view, whether coming from either north or south direction, spoiling a clear view over the bay.
“The same refers to the opposite view from the beachfront towards the historical buildings on Main Road,” he said.
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He said tourists as well as locals like to stop at the viewing platform watching the surfers or the whales, but asked who would want to sit next to a high radiation pole? He said it would spoil a public amenity.
Moreover, he he said, the the planned cell mast would be a blight on the recently refurbished Historic Mile.
“The road from the Muizenberg railway station towards St James and Kalk Bay is termed the Historical Mile. It abounds in historical buildings and sites, which create interest in tourists as well as locals. On the short stretch from the station to Bailey’s Cottage and the Muizenberg Battle Site alone, are six buildings which are listed as National Heritage and carry the bronze plaque. The monopole is totally out of kilter in this environment and should not even have been considered for this area,” Mr Polter said.
He next quoted that the danger to public health through radiation is a generally accepted fact and said that the application should have been stopped at this point already.
“A safety distance of only 50 meters from it is too short if one is exposed to the radiation around the clock and this mast is definitely closer to lived-in structures,” he said.
He said that this mast would be the second one, “the first one having been quietly put up during the roadworks without any public participation”.
“This means double radiation, which is totally unacceptable. At this point it is imperative to find alternative locations,” he said in his letter of objection to the City.
“Besides this, the five-meter safety area around the antennae is accessible to the general public,” he pointed out.
Mr Polter’s next point, agreed to in the petition, concerned infrastructure.
“It is amazing that the City council even accepted the application for public comment instead of refusing it immediately. The council’s Telecommunication Mast Infrastructure Policy (April 2015) is quite clear about all environmental and health issues. If this application gets granted, it negates all values and is a direct confrontation to all policy directives. The applicant should have been referred to this policy document,” he said.
He said that big business is slowly discovering a social consciousness – why can we not practise it here?
Chris Taylor of the Historic Society said: “Residents of Muizenberg are understandably concerned about this 25-metre communication pole. It is planned to stand almost on the water’s edge in front of the Casa Labia restaurant and art gallery. It will have an immediate negative visual effect on the Historic Mile, which Council is pushing hard to beautify as a tourist attraction,” he said.
He added that the installation will probably have an effective lifespan of 25 years of more.
“Residents appreciate that the railway system requires effective communication, and have no wish to prevent that, but we believe there are other sites which will serve this purpose just as well. In particular the roof of Cinnabar Flats, already home to various radio and micro-wave stations, would probably be ideal. It provides clear line-of-sight as far as Kalk Bay. Alternatively sites on the mountainside or below Boyes Drive will offer equally good coverage without impacting the very special vista from Main Road over False Bay,” Mr Taylor said.
Warren Petterson Planning dealt with the application on behalf of Prasa, and Mr Petterson said the station would be a dual-purpose site.Part of it, he said, is to provide Prasa with telecommunications to improve signalling. “They would also allow other telecoms companies to use it,” he said. Mr Petterson said the technology used would eventually mean an end to cabling, which would reduce theft and mean fewer train delays.
“We will be sensitive to people’s concerns and we could modify the structure within certain parameters, such as reducing the height,” he said.
Director of the Muizenberg Improvement District, Peter Wright, said it was with utter amazement that he heard of the application at such a late stage.
He said he sent his objection through with minutes to spare for the deadline, and said he did so as a substantial property owner in Muizenberg and director of the Muizenberg MID.
“Why was this not planned for St James or Kalk Bay? Because it would never stand there, would never be accepted. So why here, when we have just invested so much in restoring the Historic Mile?” he asked.
The next step in the cell mast application will be an assessment, which includes taking into account the criteria noted in Section 99 of the Municipal Planning By-law of 2015 and the Telecommunications Mast Infrastructure Policy.
Mr Van der Merwe said the concerns raised by the objectors will be taken into account, and that the final decision would be made by the Municipal Planning Tribunal.