WALMER residents are hoping to have the deadline for objections to Cell C’s proposal to erect a cell tower on the corner of 8th Avenue and Water Road extended.
The deadline was December 19 but residents believe not enough notice was given.
“Both Cell C and the municipality chose to try and push this project through unnoticed over the festive season, when they knew objectors would be away,” said Tanya Wyatt, a parent of a child at Montessori School in Walmer and whose partner has a business on the corner of 8th Avenue and Main Road, Walmer.
She said residents need to send a strong message to these parties to let them know they will not have the wool pulled over their eyes.
“It is our constitutional right to live in an environment that does not cause damage to our health and it is the municipality’s obligation to protect us in providing that environment,” said Wyatt.
She added she feels strongly about protecting children in particular.
Church Road resident Stuart McCleland said: “I am very concerned as cellphone towers have not been proven to be safe. I am still sceptical about the effects they have on communities.”
At a public meeting on Tuesday night, the lawyer assisting residents in their challenge against Cell C, Robert Martindale, told attendees he plans to ask the municipality to extend the deadline to May.
“A process needs to be followed. Part of the process is that residents need to be given notice and time to object,” he said.
Martindale explained the municipality ultimately decides whether to grant special consent or not.
Clarendon Park Primary School principal, Alan Lones, said it is a problem because of several reasons. “Firstly there is the safety issue,” he said, referring to the electromagnetic fields (as produced by cell towers) a “possible carcinogen” as stated by the World Health Organisation.
“Secondly, it is not aesthetically pleasing, and we have to question the fact there are other towers that can be shared by other networks,” said Lones.
Lones is also unhappy the school was not warned of Cell C’s proposal.
“The first time I heard about it was after the school break and I saw it in the newspaper.”
Residents are also worried the tower will devalue their property.
“In Europe, and it’s starting here now, there is a clear correlation between the presence of cell masts and a decrease in property values surrounding it,” said Wyatt.
According to Cell C media relations manager, Karin Fourie, the network follows the prescribed limits and precaution as specified by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection. These are in line with the World Health Organisation guidelines, she said.
Fourie added Cell C tests its base stations to comply with international standards with regards to radiation.
“Cell C is a member of the South African Cellular Telecommunications Association and we take the safety of the people and the environment in which we operate very seriously. We always act within the required internationally accepted safety practices and national regulations when setting up base stations,” she said.
Fourie stated Cell C plans its site locations based on the demand for mobile communications and the level of existing coverage signal in a specific area.
“Great consideration is given to the environmental impact and permits required by the local authorities. All required processes are followed,” said Fourie.
Martindale believes the municipality “must not only consider scientific evidence but also the feelings of the public”.
Several years ago he helped a group in Mill Park/Linkside successfully challenge the construction of a cell tower.
The municipality did not respond to queries at the time of going to print.