Residents raise concerns about cell mast

This cell tower on the corner of Hyde and Elm roads in Parkwood has residents worried.

While a cell mast in Hyde Road, in Parkwood, is already being erected, residents are asking questions about the legality of the installation.

The cell mast’s supporting structure and fencing have been put up on the balcony of the building at 20 Hyde Road, the boundary road between Fairways and Parkwood, but neighbours say there had not been any communication from the City of Cape Town nor the building owner about the installation.

Zainab Gester, a tenant at the building, is concerned about the cell tower and how it will affect the tenants who live near to it: “I am very worried because there are seniors who live in the building as well as children. Radiation is our main concern – and the fact that no one asked the tenants or the residents in the surrounding houses were consulted.”

There were also structural concerns about the installation. Some of the bolts which support the cell mast are protruding into the hallway of the building.

She also approached the owners about the structural integrity of the building. “This is an old building, the stairs are rotten and after the installation of some of the equipment, the walls cracked.

“Since the start of the construction our hallway floods and it is soaked because of the holes in the roof and the cracks in the walls. I don’t think it’s safe,” she said.

There are concerns the building is too old to accommodate the huge cellmast.

This is the only entrance and exit used by the tenants.

There’s a hub of restored shops in Hyde Road where the cell mast is going up which brought new life to the previously run-down buildings.

One of the shopkeepers, who does not want to be named, said there had been a number of break-ins at the stores and he was concerned the cell tower would attract more burglars.

“A few of the stores have been broken into, not even that long ago. Now that this thing is going up it’s going to lure more criminals here which essentially makes it a hazard for us because they’d flock here. I don’t think it is a good idea.”

Elm Street resident Danelia Davids said they had not received any notification about the construction of the cell tower.

“Isn’t there usually a process where we can object to it? I don’t understand why this was not brought to our attention. We are ratepayers and we should have a say about what happens in our neighbourhood.”

Zahir Ebrahim, the son of the owner of the property directed all questions about the cell mast to the installation manager but said all other issues concerning the building would be addressed. “I spoke to the foreman in charge and they assured me the issues will be dealt with,” he said.

Marian Nieuwoudt, the City’s Mayco member for spatial planning and environment said the City had approved the building plans for the rooftop telecommunication base station.

Asked if a public participation process was part of the application process she said in terms of the City’s by-laws the proposal complied with the permitted land use rights and the owner had acted within his land use rights and that no public participation process was therefore required.

“The zoning of the property and its primary land use rights determine whether or not a land use application is required for consideration by the City, prior to the installation being approved. In the subject case the property land use rights permit the installation without the requirement of land use approval,” she said

Following the approval of the building plans a building inspector will conduct an inspection to make sure the installation is done in accordance with the approved building plan.

Asked if tenants and residents had any chance of objecting to the cell mast Ms Nieuwoudt didn’t give a direct answer but said if the inspector had concerns about the installation, the City could request remedial action or specialist certificates to address the concern.

The City does not conduct inspections before building plan approval to determine whether or not the building is structurally sound to accommodate the installation because the building inspector does so after installation.

The stairway that is the entrance and exit for tenants rained in after the installation.

Stefan van Heerden, of Atlas Towers, a tower construction company, said a public participation process is not required when a base station is put up on a rooftop.

He said the process had been in planning it since 2019 and had been approved twice as it lapsed the first time. The tower will be used by all the service providers to avoid proliferation – meaning there would not be a need for multiple towers.

“Because many people have been working from home the service providers realised that there is a massive hole in Hyde Road where people aren’t getting service. This is obviously a problem because everyone needs to connected so we are trying to remedy this.

“We have cellphones around us all the time when we are on our phones, the tower is merely to get more range and coverage. It is for the benefit of the community because there is a growing command, especially now,” he said.