Cellmast concern on rise

LILLIAN AMOS

The erection of a cellphone mast in Heathfield has led to an outcry from residents who want it to be taken down.

The 12-metre mast went up about a month and a half ago in Fourth Road, Heathfield, and although the mast is not active yet, residents want the “eyesore” down before it can be activated.

Melverna Wakefield, who lives near the house where the mast has been erected, has been vocal about her concerns.

“It is an eyesore. It’s not something you want in your neighbourhood because it doesn’t look good,” said Ms Wakefield.

She also questioned the health risks that signal from the mast will emit.

“This is a residential area and there are many senior people and children. People say that there are no health risks but nobody knows what long-term health risks this masts pose us to,” she said.

“Has there even been an environmental impact assessment done to find out if this cellphone tower will have an impact on the wildlife near to where it was erected?” asked Ms Wakefield.

The wildlife refers to the animals at the Little Princess Vlei, which is situated behind Fourth Road.

Residents have questioned the City of Cape Town about the application and a public participation process which should have been started before the mast was erected.

Charles Arendse, who lives in the next road, said he was not been informed that the mast was going to be erected.

“There has been absolutely nothing from the City of Cape Town or in the paper in the form of a public participation process. Why were we not given the opportunity to have our say?” asked Mr Arendse.

“Another issue is that the value of properties in the area will surely decrease because people are worried that a cellphone mast in the area will cause long-term health concerns. But the City doesn’t care and the company who put the tower up doesn’t care because to them it’s all about the money. They do not care about our health,”

Johan van der Merwe, the City’s mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, said they are aware of the installation of the cellphone mast.

He also said that a land use application for a freestanding base telecommunication station has been submitted and is currently being advertised.

“The decision on the application will be made by the Municipal Planning Tribunal at the conclusion of the public participation process,” he said.

Asked about the public participation process, Mr van der Merwe said that once it is received, it will be taken into consideration and will form part of the public input for when the land use application is assessed.

Asked about the health concerns that residents have been raising, the City’s mayoral committee member for health, Siyabulela Mamkeli said the City follows World Health Organization guidelines.

“The City of Cape Town values the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) as a health safety guideline. These are international accepted safety values endorsed by the National Department of Health and the City has not had any reason to question these values and has also not done any further research into the use of the ICNIRP values,” said Mr Mamkeli.

He added that the National Department of Health is the competent authority to enforce these values.

“In terms of this application, City Health has no objection provided that emissions from the proposed cellular installation do not exceed the ICNIRP guideline for general public exposure,” he said.

“Also, the Radio Frequency exposure levels within the area to which the public has reasonable access must be measured periodically and be made available for inspection by City Health,” said Mr Mamkeli.

In an email correspondence, Andy Greenwood from the City’s environmental and heritage management branch, said the construction of a telecommunications mast on this property does not trigger any environmental legislation.

When Southern Mail spoke to Kalu Birch, the owner of the property where the mast was erected, he referred questions to Telkom, who is the service provider responsible for the mast.

When Southern Mail initially contacted Telkom, media spokesperson Pynee Chetty said it could not be confirmed whether the tower was in fact erected by Telkom. On further investigation, Tellumat, the contractor responsible for the erection of the cellphone mast, confirmed that it belonged to Telkom and Huawei.

Maria Oosterhuizen, Tellumat PR and marketing manager, said the work by Tellumat was completed and handed over two weeks ago.

“As a result, we are unable to answer any of the other questions and suggest that any further queries are directed to the network owner, Telkom,” she told us.

Despite several further attempts by Southern Mail to get in contact with the Telkom, there has been no response.

Ward 72 councillor Kevin Southgate said he only became aware of the cellophone mast after it was erected.

“Since then I have been engaged in the process to address the matter. I am very concerned that the tower was erected before the service provider obtained necessary permission,” said Mr Southgate.

He adds that the application for land use has been submitted and appealed to residents to take part in the public participation process. “I encourage residents to engage in the public participation process and make their voice heard. If something like this is approved it sets a precedent to service providers and we need to guard against that because residents have rights,” he said.