Residents want cell mast taken down

Beacon Valley residents wants cell mast removed.

Residents want a cell mast, which was erected on the grounds of a Beacon Valley church, to be taken down. But the City says the objection period closed in December 2019 and the only way the residents can have their objections heard is if they challenge the matter in the Western Cape High Court.

The residents, who say they were not informed that the mast would be built on the grounds of the Africa Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Beacon Valley, have a petition signed by 153 people who support their cause.

The cell mast tower at the Africa Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Beacon Valley.

Beacon Valley resident and pastor, Dean Ramjoomia, said they’d driven around Beacon Valley and found another four cell towers within a kilometre of each other. Of the five, two are located on school grounds, two on church properties and one at a business premises at a newly renovated complex, in Morgenster.

The petition against the construction of the cell tower at the AME Church in Hengelaar Crescent, Beacon Valley, was started in November 2020, led by Beacon Valley resident Norman Meyer who was concerned about the health risks associated with being exposed to radiation.

But work on the site was halted between December last year and January this year, said Mr Ramjoomia.

In January more residents added their objections and made contact with the American Tower Company (ATC) who were responsible for the construction of the tower.

“We noticed that there were many more cell mast towers around Beacon Valley and it is very disturbing to know that it is all housed in our community,” said Mr Meyer.

“We are concerned about the radiation it may cause. We were not informed of the cell mast tower being built.”

Mr Ramjoomia echoed these sentiments, describing the number of towers in the area as “overkill”.

“The City of Cape Town failed to communicate with the rest of the community. We questioned the fact that five cell mast towers of this nature in the Beacon Valley community is an overkill and that there is no evidence suggesting that our community has such large users of internet or telecommunication networks,” said Mr Ramjoomia.

“The issue is the health risk to the elderly, pregnant women and children. We have not received answers from the Ward 116 councillor Michael Pietersen. He has been largely absent or quiet in this matter,” said Mr Ramjoomia

“It lends strength to our argument, why the silence and failure to communicate and recognize us as residents, homeowners and stakeholders,” he said.

The also plan to log complaints with and request an investigation by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), Mr Ramjoomia said.

“We acknowledge and accept that technology has moved on but there are known risk factors to these cell mast towers being built in our community.”

He also questioned why the church had not informed the neighbouring residents of the plans to erect a cell mast on its grounds. When Plainsman contacted the AME Church, they declined to comment.

Resident Shareefa Herman said it felt like the rights of the community were being trampled on.

The City’s mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, however, said the construction had been widely advertised and that no objections had been received by the time the objection period closed in December 2019.

She explained that a land use management application had been submitted seeking consent for the erection of a freestanding base telecommunications station on erf 32838, Mitchell’s Plain.

The application was advertised by means of serving letters by registered mail on 23 neighbouring properties, she said.

The ward councillor was also notified of the proposed development and by the closing date of the advertising period, Monday December 9, 2019, no objections had been received, and the application was subsequently finalised, said Ms Nieuwoudt.

The land use management application was subsequently finalised and approved on Tuesday April 28, 2020.

Asked about the petition the residents have drawn up and signed, she said the cell mast tower would not be taken down, regardless of whether more people sign the petition as the objection period had long since come to an end.

Aggrieved parties can, however, challenge the decision with a review application in the Western Cape High Court, she said.

ATC South Africa spokesman Theresa Stewart said the company had followed all due process under the City of Cape Town’s municipal planning by-law for the construction of the tower at AME Church.

“The applicant is required to serve notice of the application on land owners within a 100 metre radius of the property. We sent letters by registered mail to this group,” she said.

“Questions about the health and safety of radio frequencies (RF) produced by telecommunication towers are not new, nor are concerns about public exposure to these frequencies. RF are omnipresent as they have been produced by electric currents or telecommunication antennas for decades,” she said.

“ATC South Africa takes public health and safety requirements very seriously and ensures compliance with them. We understand the concerns raised by residents, which is why we always adhere to international and South African RF safety standards and will continue to do so to ensure the communities that host our sites remain safe and healthy,” she said.