Lakeside mast uproar

An artist's impression, used by Stephen Parkes, who is leading a civic campaign to give the proposed 25m-high cell mast at Lakeside Station the boot.

An application to install a 25-metre high lattice mast and ancillary equipment on Erf 85354 in Station Road, Lakeside, has outraged those residents who do know about it.

Prasa’s subsidary company Intersite is responsible for the application.

Mthandeni Mntungwa, executive manager for commercial services for Intersite, said there is a significant gap in the cell networks in this area, and that Prasa will be able to make use of the mast for their signalling equipment.

Resident Stephen Parkes is leading the campaign to halt the mast application.

He said that many residents in the affected areas have not received the required notices allowing them the right to object. His letter of objection lists the ways this application flouts the City’s very own laws – and he is not having a bar of it.

“I want it known that we are not Luddites against modern technology but rather that these applications which are sensitive insofar as they hugely impact people’s lives, homes and character of community. The applicant is fully in their right to make an application but it is their duty – and the duty of the City – to ensure that the application meets all the requirements and objectives of the City’s own policy.”

The greatest concern the residents, through their spokesperson Mr Parkes, have raised is the impact on the health of residents living within 500m of the proposed mast. He also said the property value of homes in the area and their visual surrounds will be negatively impacted.

He said the proposed application sits within a dense, single storey residential area. There are 150 houses located within a 250m radius of the proposed mast; and in excess of 500 residences within 450m – including several blocks of flats.

“Furthermore it sits on the edge of the Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve, which is an important habitat for 166 species of birds and a breeding ground for the endangered leopard toad – and it is next to a building of significant heritage value,” Mr Parkes said.

He took his campaign to Facebook and asked how many of the residents actually received letters from the City inviting a response. “Most people directly in the affected area had no idea about this and had not received notifications from the City informing them or inviting them to respond. This simply isn’t acceptable process,” he said.

He quotes the City’s own by-laws on the considerations involving cell masts.

“The coverage area that TMI can reach needs to be maximised; while at the same time it must be ensured that the siting is compatible with adjoining land uses and permissible land uses, that the receiving environment and heritage value (natural and built) is not adversely affected, and that negative visual impacts and impacts on human health and wellbeing are minimised. Well sited TMI will reduce the mitigation measures that are needed.”

Mr Parkes has taken this from the City of Cape Town Telecommunication Mast Infrastructure Policy, of April 2015.

“This application by Warren Petterson Planning / South African Rail Commuter Corporation Limited fails to meet the requirements stated in the Mast Infrastructure Policy – by severely adversely affecting the surrounding natural and building heritage as well as the human health and well being of those nearby,” Mr Parkes said.

He said in terms of visual impact, the proposed 25-metre lattice mast is completely inappropriate for a single-storey residential suburb, and it negatively impacts those who come to enjoy the natural surroundings of the nature reserve.

He points out that as the erf is devoid of established trees, a 25-metre mast, which is considerably higher than the surrounding residential dwellings and rail infrastructure, will be a blatant “eyesore” and highly visible from quite some distance throughout the scenic Constantia Valley.

Furthermore, he pointed out that Lakeside station is older than 60 years and has heritage value – yet the application makes no mention or any approvals, support or comment for Heritage Western Cape nor is the mast sympathetic to the design of the historical station.

Mr Parkes said that while the motivation cites a 2011 Department of Health Statement, the negative impacts – as well as unanswered questions around the effects of cell masts on health – have since been well documented.

He raises the particular vulnerability of babies and small children.

“The proposed site in a dense residential suburb which is located close to several nursery schools where young children below the age of five are the believed to be the most susceptible to the negative impacts of mast radiation. The closest of which is Little Acorns which is 200m away. The proposed mast position is to be installed within 50m of residential homes which is against the policy governing masts. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the guidelines stipulate that the cell masts should be placed at least 400 meters outside of residential areas,” Mr Parkes said.

Intersite’s mandate is to leverage the PRASA group’s asset base. Mr Mntungwa said said the mast would be used by PRASA for the signalling systems on their new equipment and that PRASA will have access to the mast to install equipment should they wish to. He said that masts will be applied for “where there is a need” and that currently there are approximately 60 stations where masts have been applied for. He said mast designs vary between stations.

“At Lakeside we have proposed a lattice mast, that will blend in with the existing railway infrastructure on site. From time to time we are requested to change the design by the City’s planning department,” he said.

Warren Petterson of Warren Petterson Planning said that there has been no permission granted yet by the City, the application is still in progress. In response to the question about what assurance the applicant can give, that a mast of 25-metres will be both structurally sound, and safe in terms of health to people and the environment, he said that this is an industry standard mast and that qualified engineers design and sign construction off. Mr Peterson said the height is necessary to get the coverage over the built environment.

Ward councillor Aimee Kuhl said: “I have voiced my concerns about the application. Nevertheless, I need to state that outside of formal procedures, a councillor does not have the power to prevent this application on non-city land, from being approved or refused. I suggest the community openly, via local media makes its objections heard in the hope that this puts more pressure on the applicant.”

For more information on the Lakeside site, visit: http://lakesidecw.co.za/wp/home/lakeside-mast/