Cellphone tower sparks fury
A new cellphone tower is being erected in Kenyon Crescent, Bonnie Doon, – and it’s getting surrounding residents hot under the collar.
Christo Theart of the Buffalo City Ratepayers and Residents Forum, who spoke on behalf of concerned homeowners in the area, said the unsightly tower, which was reminiscent of a steel chimney stack, was ugly and dangerous.
Theart claimed he and a team of concerned residents had sent letters to BCM and the owner of the property on which the tower was erected, in the hope of having the tower removed.
He said they were concerned about a lack of consultation with the wider community, a lack of policy in the municipality regarding cellphone towers and a lack of aesthetic consideration regarding erected towers.
East London property mogul Russell Seymour is the owner of the property.
Seymour said he followed the correct procedures and received approval from every municipal department. He said as the property was in a zone 1 business area he was not required to ask the surrounding community for approval.
Seymour also asserted that the erection of the tower was done as a favour to surrounding businesses, who were complaining of poor signal and slow internet speeds. The tower would be rented out to multiple cellphone providers, he added.
Seymour said he was aware the tower was a source of disgruntlement.
Councillor Jason McDowell said he had received a number of complaints from residents living in the area.
Most of the complaints were about fear of radiation and lack of consultation with the community.
McDowell said he “never knew about it until it was being built”, and that as far as he was aware the proposal to erect the tower should have come through his ward committee first.
There was also an issue with building rubble from the tower being dumped in a park across the road, in the process crushing a commemorative plaque.
“It’s a big issue,” the councillor said. “We are trying to get answers from BCM on who signed off on the tower but we are still waiting.”
BCM spokesman Samkelo Ngwenya said the municipality was aware of the new tower.
Its construction was approved on May 25, he added.
Ngwenya claimed that complaints regarding the tower were only received once the work had already been carried out, and insisted that all proper processes were followed.
“These are the steps that are taken: Submission of a building plan application, making the fee payment, folders opened by the plans processor, and plans sent to plans processing [section].
“Departments involved in plan approval had made comments and town planning obtained environmental impact assessment (EIA) [authorisation] from the provincial department of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism,” he said.
Asked if there were specific regulations regarding cellphone towers, Ngwenya said: “From building control, an engineer’s certificate for the rational design is required to ensure safety of the structure.
“Indeed, such a certificate was submitted.”
He said that from January to December last year 17 applications for cellphone towers or “cell masts” were approved in BCM.
Last month, another cellphone tower erected in Gonubie ruffled the feathers of the surrounding residents, with complaints including the droning noise coming from the tower’s generator, the radio waves emitted by the tower and lack of consultation before the tower was installed.
At the time BCM conceded that while procedures had been followed, the reality on the ground did call for a review and that residents needed to be consulted in order to “go forward in a way in which everyone benefits”.
When asked if this review had been undertaken, Ngwenya responded: “Town planning rely on the strength of [the] EIA as carried out by the province.”