A cellphone giant has launched a fresh bid to keep its cell mast in the Strawberry Lane community after two courts found the City erred by passing building plans for it.
Residents now have until Monday June 26 to comment or object to the proposal to rezone a portion of 12 Dalham Road to permit the tower (“Community battle against cell mast,” Bulletin June 23, 2015).
The applicant, town planner Warren Pettersen, has applied on behalf of MTN, to rezone the property from “single residential” to “utility”. The 15.5m-high mast would be disguised as a yellowwood tree with nine panel antennae and a building containing the equipment.
This month, June, marks two years since a Strawberry Lane resident won a court battle against the cell mast.
The Strawberry Lane community has fought against cell masts in the area for more than two decades, citing health risks they say are linked to radiation from them.
In the 1990s, it took them two years to have a Vodacom mast removed. It had been built illegally without planning permission. In October 2010, the City granted MTN a departure for a temporary mast and base station valid for five years. In August 2014, three months before the mast and base station were built, Stemar Trust, owners of the property next to the site, lodged a Western Cape High Court application to remove them.
The City was cited as a respondent to the application, but did not oppose the relief sought and agreed to abide by the court’s decision.
That same year, once the tower had been built, residents marched from Waldorf School in Spaanschemat River Road along Strawberry Lane to the cul-de-sac of Dalham Road to protest against it (“Protest against cell mast,” Bulletin December 4, 2014).
On June 3 2015, Judge Owen Rogers set aside the building approval the City had granted MTN. (“Residents celebrate cell mast victory,” Bulletin June 18, 2015).
MTN appealed but the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in December last year that the base station was not a temporary structure and the City had been wrong to approve the building plans.
“The judgment potentially has far-reaching implications for other communities who have also been affected by the erection of masts as temporary structures,” said Justine Hansen of the Strawberry Lane Mass Action Group.
She referred to the City’s telecommunication policy, dated April 2015, which says, “The council states that many existing installation have been approved on a temporary basis.”
But despite the court decisions, the mast continues to operate and MTN has refused to decommission it.
Then in March this year, MTN submitted a rezoning application to council to get building plan approval… this time for a permanent structure. At the end of May, residents started getting registered letters from council about the proposal.
Fusi Mokoena, the general manager in MTN’s legal department, said, “The Supreme Court of Appeal found that the correct legislation was not followed when MTN was granted the approval to erect the cell mast and base station at 12 Dalham Road in Constantia. MTN has addressed this anomaly by making a fresh application to the City of Cape Town using the right legislation and we await the decision from the City of Cape Town on the new application. “MTN has not removed the cell mast and base station as the judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal did not order such removal or decommissioning”.
This was echoed by Mr Petterson who said the court had ruled that the original approvals “were not entirely in line with the respective legislation at the time and that a new application be submitted to rectify this”.
John Hesom, manager of the Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, said they were assessing MTN’s new application and they planned to poll members opinions on the issue.
The Bulletin tried without success to contact Angela Joan Scofield, the owner of the property on which the cell mast stands. We also emailed and left phone messages for her neighbour, Stephen Marshall, but he did not respond by the time this edition went to print.
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