Cell mast concerns at Phoenix Lodge

The proposal for a cellular communications tower on the premises of Phoenix Lodge, home to the western division of the South African, English constitution, Freemasons in Glencairn, has raised concern among residents who feel there was a lack of public participation.

The applicant, Warren Patterson Planning (WPP) on behalf of Atlas Towers, has submitted an application for a 21-metre mast, which comprises of a monopole mast with domes around the top half that encloses the antennas, to be erected on Erf 4386.

WPP representative, Dirko Loots said the Glencairn area has very poor cellular coverage, especially LTE (a 4G mobile communications standard) coverage. The proposed mast will greatly improve the coverage for the area, which will provide improved voice call coverage and internet services.

Atlas Tower is a Colorado-based company with offices in Paarl, Durban and Pretoria. It owns and operates communication towers in 11 US states and recently erected their first towers in South Africa.

According to its website, they make leasing easy and can almost always beat the lease rates of their competitors.

The Echo received several calls from residents in the area who were concerned that the proper public participation process was not followed.

Residents claimed that a meeting that was to be held on Wednesday October 25 was open to selective members of the community only instead of all.

According to email conversations between the relevant parties which the Echo is in possession of, the proposal of the tower is a potentially contentious issue and could invoke emotion among members of the community.

And due to this, the parties involved thought it would be better to arrange a meeting where community representatives could informally speak to the communications tower representative and then, armed with facts, convey the message to the community. However, the meeting was cancelled due to the invite being extended to the community at large through social media and the applicant was not prepared to address a public meeting.

No new date for a meeting has been set. The email conversations also indicate that the proposal for the cellular communications tower was not requested by the Freemasons but seen as an alternative opportunity for them to fund their charities.

Worshipful Master, Bro Garnet Marshall, a member of the Freemasons responded to the Echo’s enquiry by saying their intention is not to exclude the public.

He confirmed that they have been approached by a telecommunications company to erect a mast but said they cannot name the company as they are under confidentiality terms with them due to the competitiveness of their business.

He said he wanted to assure the community of the greater Simon’s Town area that public participation and the erection of any structure will only be effected if it is approved by the City of Cape Town as prescribed in terms of the appropriate by-law/s by the City.

He said a major function of the lodge is financial support for charities and it has donated more than R60 000 to various charities this year of which Paul Greyling Primary School, Meals on Wheels Fish Hoek, and Hospice are among the many beneficiaries.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, confirmed that an application for the communications tower had been submitted which included a request for the rezoning of a portion of the property from limited use to a utility zone.

Mr Herron said the application for rezoning will be advertised in the press, an on-site notice erected on the property, registered letters sent to surrounding property owners and community organisations and the ward councillor will be notified. According to the application, the proposal will be greatly beneficial for the residents of Glencairn, which includes local businesses as well as surround-
ing communities and commu-
ters.

The application states: This benefit relates to the fact that an improvement will be experienced in terms of network provision and coverage. In its end, this will enhance the level of health and safety improving accessibility to emergency services such as ambulances, police and the fire department. Economic efficiency such as accessibility of businesses and individuals to faster, efficient and reliable internet and communication connectivity will also be improved. This application is by no means a careless act as health and environmental aspects are taken into consideration with associated proof that this development holds no threat for residents.