In 2011, 91% of homes polled in the Strawberry Lane area in a 300m radius of the Eskol Lane mast signed against it. And in 2014, over 90% of homes polled in the area signed the petition against the MTN mast in Dalham Rd. This high percentage has surprised many but this area has had a long history of mast opposition.
At the time of the extensive 2007 petitioning against the mast application in Eskol Rd the application went on appeal to Province. Here are notes taken from a recording of the appeal meeting in March 2007 : “there’s been a lot of activity – you’ll find that the information goes back another 4 or 5 years so it’s quite a lot of history, quite a lot of local community dissatisfaction…”. And further back in Nov 2000, 180 signatories requested the removal of the illegally erected Vodacom tower in Eskol Rd. The tower was subsequently removed.
And secondly, people’s reasons for signing the petition were varied – including lack of consultation and transparency, flawed and undemocratic Council policy & processes, secrecy, injustice, long-term economic implications of installing old technology, ridiculously close proximity to neighbours without their consent, sympathy for children living adjacent to a mast, health, environment, bees, property values, semi-rural environment….
Following the unexpected installation of a Vodacom mast in Eskol Lane in 2011, a poll was done of neighbours in the Strawberry Lane area living within 300m of the mast, extending to Spaanschemat on the one side and the nature trail on the other. Here is a map indicating erfs which signed on this occasion, with petitions against both this mast and the proposed one in Dalham Rd.
The mast site on the Bible College grounds are in brown. Areas in white indicate those homes polled (not all were reached, despite several attempts).
Of the erfs reached in a 300m radius, 6 homes didn’t sign and 61 homes did sign the petition. 61/67 = 91%.
If we include homes in the 300m radius where people weren’t at home at the time of the poll – and assuming they all refused to sign (which they certainly wouldn’t) – the percentage would drop to 61/78 = 78%. Still a vast majority.
These figures, petitions and map were presented at a meeting with Council in Sep 2011 with 7 officials from various departments. And later to Vodacom. Based on the extent of the community’s objection this second mast was removed by Vodacom, to their credit.
Three years later MTN caught the community off-guard when the Dalham Rd tower was erected on 12 Nov 2014. A well-attended protest was held 2 weeks later and in the week leading up to the protest ten members of the action group gathered petitions from their neighbours.
A total of 142 out of 151 erfs reached in that timeframe in the greater Strawberry Lane area signed the petition (94%) which simply said “We, the undersigned, object to the current installation of an MTN cellphone tower in Dalham Rd, Constantia.”
The petition gatherers ran out of time for the Willow Rd / Cherry Lane / Airlie Lane area but most of the immediately affected area bounded by Strawberry Lane, Ridgedale Crescent and Spaanschemat Road was well covered.
Just examining this well-covered area, there were 103 signatures from the 112 erfs reached. 103/112 = 92%. Looking again at the worst-case scenario, if we factor in the additional 34 erfs where the owners weren’t at home on the occaions tried and assume that all of them refused to sign (which they certainly wouldn’t as a number of these homes had signed against the mast before), the percentage would be 103/137 = 75%.
A map of this section was coloured in, blown up and on display throughout the protest for the press to photograph (which they did). On this map the areas in white indicate erfs where the owners weren’t at home when the petition-gatherers went around. Red represents a signed petition and yellow those who wouldn’t sign.
In some of these cases the neighbours signed just after the protest and these few additional signatures were included in our totals.