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Wednesday Dec 20, 2017

Durbanville mast row headed for the courts

A row over the installation of a cellphone mast tower between fed-up Durbanville residents and the City is headed for the courts.

The City of Cape Town has approved a cellphone base station on a church property next to a crèche in Vergesig near Durbanville‚ despite residents' claims of a fraudulent planning application.

High Wave Consultants' first application for a base station at the AGS church in St John Road was refused in April because it did not comply with the council's telecommunication mast infrastructure policy.

But the application was approved on appeal by mayor Patricia de Lille.

Objectors claim High Wave Consultants made a fraudulent representation to the council by pretending to investigate alternative sites but not doing so.

Verne Jankielsohn from the Vergesig-Aurora Residents Association said they understand the need for cellphone towers, but said the applicants were offered other sites.

"We gave them a different site and asked them not to install this cellphone mast on the church's property. It is simply not viable to do that especially it being on a church ground," she said.

Jankielsohn said the Durbanville area is well-covered with 4G/LTE cellphone coverage.

"No one helped us. We went to the DA's provincial and national leadership. All they told us, that they were looking into the matter. They have not told us anything further as yet. We feel very dis-empowered because every door we knock on, gets closed in our faces," she said.

She said court papers had been filed in the Western Cape High Court to overturn De Lille's decision.

"A cellphone tower will decrease our property values and poses great health risks," she said.

Zara Nicholson, De Lille's spokesperson, said the City of Cape Town confirms that it had received the court papers. "The City will peruse the documentation and decide on a course of action," she said.

Meanwhile residents of Heathfield have also been fighting developers from erecting a cellphone tower next to a community church.

Local resident Helen Hoekstra said: "Surely there is a point when a victory is a victory, and not open for appeal any longer? We have also heard of other sites where this has happened. How can this be democratic, when a single individual can override multiple processes.

"The community has had three victories so far, once at a sub-council meeting, once by error on the applicant side and the third time at a municipal planning tribunal hearing. Each time, the developer appealed the outcome and so it keeps returning. This is reminiscent of how large corporations with lots of resources are able to eventually exhaust a community's capacity and resources," she said.

"At the last appeal, community members again submitted complaints but without any further engagement we are suddenly told the erection will go ahead. How did the company do this? They went to the mayor."

Cape Argus

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