By-law amended

An activist fighting cell masts says the DA-controlled City council’s decision to pass by-law changes that include allowing small masts on homes shows the party puts big business before citizens.

Amendments to the Municipal Planning By-law will allow, among others, minor free-standing cell masts or minor rooftop masts without prior land-use approval from the City or adjacent land owners.

Derek Main, of the National Alliance Against Cell Masts (NAAC) Kirstenhof, said council’s decision wasn’t a surprise because the public participation process was a sham.

“The entire public participation process needs to be overhauled as it’s not working for residents.”

The by-law regulates development and land use in the city.

The amendments allow for minor free-standing cell masts (up to 12m high) or minor rooftop masts (up to 1.5m high) – without prior land-use approval from the City or adjacent landowners – on properties zoned for community use, such as churches, schools, clinics and hospitals, and spaces zoned for utilities, transport, public open space and agriculture.

A cell mast up to 1.5 metres high will be allowed, with City permission, on single- and general-residential properties.

The amendments allow short-term letting from a house or flat for up to 30 consecutive days, in response, says the City, to the rise in online businesses such as Airbnb.

Meanwhile, third dwellings can be built without prior City approval (although building plans must still be passed) on single-residential properties.

The City put the proposed amendments out for public comment in March, and officials answered questions at six public information sessions in Milnerton, Kraaifontein, the Cape Town CBD, Fish Hoek, Goodwood and Strand.

This drew a robust response from the Fish Hoek Valley Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (FHVRRA) in an eight-page submission to the City, (“Public participation ‘rigged’,” Echo, April 4).

Mr Main claims the City makes its decisions long before the public participation process is held.

“Nobody spoke in favour of these processes at the hearings, and many speakers raised objections, but these were simply ignored.”

By passing these amendments, he said, the City had proven his point.

But mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, said the proposed amendments had been presented to 24 sub-councils after receiving 131 submissions from residents, ratepayers’ associations, organisations, and other interested parties.

The amendments will take effect next year once promulgated in the Provincial Gazette. Ms Nieuwoudt said it wasn’t the City’s responsibility to regulate health issues linked to telecommunications, but all network providers had to comply with the requirements of the national Department of Health and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

She said the City had omitted an amendment allowing it to provide temporary housing for flood or disaster victims on land that might not be zoned for it without prior public participation. That amendment needed further refinement, she said.

The FHVRRA – which had objected against the cell-mast amendment on health grounds – said it was disappointed with the amendments passed by council. With no option to appeal, it would have to go to court to fight the decision, but residents had no desire to go that costly route, the association said. Mr Main believes the amendments are unconstitutional. He referred to the Constitutional Court ruling earlier this year – in Simcha Trust vs Da Cruz and others and the City of Cape Town vs Da Cruz and others – that local authorities must apply the “legitimate expectations test” when considering whether the area surrounding a proposed building site would be disfigured or whether the building itself would be unsightly or objectionable.

The test says the decision-maker must consider the impact of the proposed development on neighbouring properties from the perspective of a hypothetical neighbour.

The judgment is seen as significant in that it ensures the interests of surrounding property owners are adequately protected.

Mr Main said the best way to fight the amendments was to get the DA out of power in the province.

“If there is ever a conflict between business and citizens, in a DA world, business will win every time. The DA is more concerned with protecting business’s rights than citizen’s rights.”

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