Cell mast sparks health fears

HAZEL ALLIES-HUSSELMAN

Some Sherwood Park residents are worried about a cellphone tower that was erected on church property in Second Avenue.

The tower went up at the Assemblies of God church about two weeks ago and some residents have complained that there was no public participation process, and at least one resident questioned whether the community was aware of the potential health concerns linked to cellphone masts.

A sports field and the adjacent York Road children’s play park are a few hundred metres from the tower, and there are fears about the levels of radiation people, and especially children in the park, would be exposed to.

Fourth Avenue resident Mogamat Johaadien said there had been no communication with him, and the tower “is right on my doorstep”.

Mr Johaadien said as far as he knew, there had been no public participation process. He also wanted to know whether an electromagnetic exposure reading could be provided, and whether it could be determined that this reading was within acceptable limits.

His daughter, Tahierah Johaadien, added: “We don’t even know who this tower belongs to. A few years back, they wanted to put a tower on the mosque’s property, but the congregants rejected this. These towers give off radiation, and there are children playing the park. I don’t know if people are fully aware of the dangers.

“There was also no communication from the City of Cape Town – the least they could have done is to make people aware of the pros and cons, so that the community is more knowledgeable about cellphone towers. I know certain criteria need to be met before something like this can go up, and communication is key.

“Everybody needs to give feedback. I have seen many schools, mosques, and churches are being targeted for cellphone masts, and it seems that people are driven more by money, than the health risks these towers pose.”

The City’s mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, Johan van der Merwe, said a land use application for this tower had been submitted in November 2014 and that a public participation process started shortly thereafter.

“Letters were sent on November 30, 2014, via registered mail. The ward councillor, Coetzee Ntotoviyane, and the Sub-council 11 manager’s office were also notified. There was no registered civic association to receive communication relating to the application as prescribed by the notification policy. An on-site notification was also visible as per council’s requirements,” Mr Van Der Merwe said.

When asked to explain the procedures involved after an application of this nature is made, Mr Van Der Merwe said: “Generally, the applicant has a pre-consultation communication with the district office to determine the requirements for such application. Once the submission is received and fees are paid, the planner will determine whether any additional information is required. Once determined that the submission is complete, it will be advertised in terms of council’s notification Policy to interested and affected parties via registered letters, on-site notification and, in this case, no press advertising was required. Note that specific properties were identified for the receipt of registered letters.

“If no objections are received, the decision is delegated to an official. Once the recommendation report is completed, and in this case finalised, the notification letter is issued with an appeal option of 21 days (sent to the applicant).

“Generally, if an application is considered complete and there are no delays in the assessment and processing, the application would have taken four months under delegation, if there were no objections received. However, with objections, the applications would have taken approximately seven months given the response to objections by the applicant and then the submission of reports to the relevant committee for decision.”

He said no objections were received for this tower.

The Athlone News spoke to residents who brought their children to the park to hear their opinions on the matter.

Arnold Fouten said his initial concern was that the tower did not look like it was lodged deep enough.

“I was just thinking, what if it falls over and there are children in the park, because to me the hole they made did not look that deep. Now I understand that people would also have concerns over radiation. I often bring my three-year-old sons to the park,” he said.

Nazley Dhansay, a teacher at Mustadafin Foundantion’s crèche in the area, said they knew about the tower, but they had not received any information about it, and certainly nothing about the possible health risks. She said they often took children from there centre to the park.

Eagle Towers SA owns the mast company.

Representative Jerome Davidse, said they had followed all the required procedures.

“We received local authority approval. Environmental studies were done, and the community had their say. We cannot get building approval if these things were not done. The whole process takes between six to eight months. Putting up a tower like this costs a lot of money, and if processes were not followed, then the council can tell us to take it off, so it would be very expensive not to follow procedure,” Mr Davidse said.

When asked about the possible dangers posed by the tower, he said: “It is more dangerous to speak on your cellphone, as it is right next to your ear. This tower is 25m high and one needs to be 1m away from the antenna before it can affect you. Studies about this haven’t even been proven. We won’t do something detrimental to the community.”

He said the tower was not limited to one particular network, and was not just for cellphone use. He refused to say how much the church was being paid to have the tower on its property.

Reverend Alistair Petersen from the Assemblies of God church in Sherwood Park, said all was above board with the application to put up the tower. He said he believed a tower was needed, as “the signal in the area is bad”.

He too refused to say how much the church was being paid to host the tower.

Mr Ntotoviyane said he had been part of a delegation which had conducted a siteinspection when the application was made.

“All of us who were there expressed the same sentiments about the health concerns, but they assured us that there are no health hazards,” he said.