Phone tower ig­nites heated City de­bate

Southern Telegraph - - Telegraph News - Ai­den Boy­ham

The City of Rock­ing­ham coun­cil met for its Oc­to­ber meet­ing on Oc­to­ber 31, with the meet­ing dom­i­nated by con­tro­versy sur­round­ing a pro­posed tele­phone tower in Se­cret Har­bour.

Coun­cil­lors voted 7-3 against an ap­pli­ca­tion from Tel­stra to build a phone tower next to the Se­cret Har­bour Shop­ping Cen­tre, with lo­cal res­i­dents in at­ten­dance voic­ing their con­cerns with the proposal through­out.

A num­ber of res­i­dents used pub­lic ques­tion time to voice their anger about the proposal, cit­ing con­cerns over the po­ten­tial health im­pacts from tower ra­di­a­tion and its cho­sen lo­ca­tion near homes, busi­nesses and neigh­bour­ing Se­cret Har­bour Pri­mary School.

De­spite a 3-2 vote from the Plan­ning and En­gi­neer­ing Ser­vices Com­mit­tee in favour of the ap­pli­ca­tion last week, coun­cil­lors voted against the item, cit­ing many of the same con­cerns as Se­cret Har­bour res­i­dents.

Newly elected Comet Bay Ward coun­cil­lor Mark Jones stated his op­po­si­tion to the proposal, while Bal­divis Ward coun­cil­lor Lee Down­ham raised is­sue with the tower’s prox­im­ity to the nearby school and said a vote of no would send a strong mes­sage to the pro­po­nent.

How­ever, Cr Down­ham did con­cede in the same vein as Comet Bay Ward coun­cil­lor Chris El­liott that even with a vote of no, an ap­peal from the ap­pli­cant at the State Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal was likely to be suc­cess­ful should it even­tu­ate.

Safety Bay Ward coun­cil­lor Deb Ham­blin took a dif­fer­ent view with re­gards to a pos­si­ble SAT ap­peal and said it may not get to that point and also raised con­cerns that the nearby pri­mary school may not have been prop­erly in­formed about the tower.

Coun­cil­lors Leigh Li­ley and Kather­ine Sum­mers said there was vast amounts of ev­i­dence link­ing such tow­ers to health is­sues in­clud­ing can­cer, with the pair en­cour­ag­ing coun­cil to err on the side of cau­tion and not back the ap­pli­ca­tion.

Mean­while, Cr Joy Ste­wart de­scribed the con­flict­ing data from both sides of the equa­tion as con­fus­ing and said un­til there was more con­clu­sive ev­i­dence, it was right to vote against the proposal.

Cr Matt Whit­field, on the other hand, voted in favour of the mo­tion af­ter re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion from the Nu­clear Ra­di­a­tion Author­ity that there was no ra­di­a­tion risk from such tow­ers.

Cr El­liott, who was set to move an al­ter­nate mo­tion but later chose not to, was prag­matic about the is­sue and said, while the coun­cil needed to be con­sul­ta­tive with res­i­dents, the ap­pli­ca­tion from a le­gal plan­ning per­spec­tive was sound and would more than likely be passed by SAT even if coun­cil knocked it back.

The fi­nal vote saw the mo­tion re­jected, with coun­cil­lors Down­ham, Jones, Ste­wart, An­drew Burns, Li­ley, Ham­blin and Sum­mers vot­ing against it while coun­cil­lors Whit­field, El­liott and Barry Sam­mels voted in favour.

The City of Rock­ing­ham coun­cil met for its Oc­to­ber meet­ing on Tues­day night.

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