Tribunal rejects cell mast application

Plans to build a 25-metre-high cell tower at a Durbanville church have been put on hold, after the City of Cape Town rejected the application.

The application by the AGS Church, in St John’s Road, Vergesig, to let Highwave Consultants (Pty) Ltd build the tower, drew 96 objections. The period for public comment closed in mid-November last year.

Residents had claimed the mast would hurt property values, make it harder to sell their homes, ruin the area’s rural feel and possibly even harm their health (“Residents say no to tower,” Northern News November 10 2016).

But church spokesman Cyril Rosalt had argued that there was no conclusive evidence that cell-tower radiation harmed humans, and the mast would boost the area’s cellphone reception and internet connectivity while giving the church a funding stream for its day-to-day costs.

Residents had also complained that the plan to build the mast had not been well publicised. They had also questioned whether the mast was needed, saying there were no cellphone reception problems in the area. One resident said no one had told him nine years ago, when he had sunk a large chunk of his life’s savings into buying and renovating his home, about the possibility of cell towers going up in the area.

The City’s Municipal Planning Tribunal shot down plans for the mast on Tuesday April 11, citing Section 98 (c) of the Municipal Planning By-Law 2015.

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said the application had failed because the mast would have been on the crest of a rise and posed too much of a negative visual impact. The applicant had also not motivated its choice of site, offered alternatives or adequately shown how the proposed mast would be blended into the landscape, all of which was required in terms of the City’s policy on telecommunications mast infrastructure.

However, at the same meeting, the tribunal approved Durbanville Golf Club’s application to put up a 25-metre free standing tower near the pond on the corner of Legato and De Villiers drives, Durbanville, but it denied the club’s second application for a 20-metre tower near the corner of Legato and Fairtrees drives (“Tee’d off over towers,” Northern News, November 24 2016).

Durbanville Golf Club general manager John Bold had told Northern News previously that the proposed towers would complement an existing tower at the club to meet the area’s growing demand for wireless voice and data-related products. The tribunal refused the second tower, citing its negative visual impact and threat to the area’s heritage.

Pieter Pretorius, of Highwave Consultants, told Northern News on Friday April 28 that their client had “yet to issue them a request for quotation for the project”.

Mr Herron said the applicant was notified of the decision on Wednesday April 19 and had until Tuesday May 16 to appeal, should they wish to do so.

“Should they submit an appeal, the appeal will be circulated to all affected parties, in this case the objectors, for their input/comment. Once this has been received, a report will be tabled before the mayor’s advisory panel for consideration,” he said.

A resident, who asked not to be named, said they were pleased with the outcome but were aware of the applicant’s right to appeal.

Mr Rosalt said he personally had not received any notification of the tribunal’s decision but it was up to the client to decide if they would appeal and not the church.