Residents lose fight over phone tower
Residents off Stevens Road in Redgate have joined the ranks of local people losing out to major telecommunications companies after another contentious 43m tower was approved by the council earlier this month.
Shire of Augusta-Margaret River councillors expressed frustration at their June 13 meeting that “discretionary” approval for phone towers appeared to serve developers rather than the community.
“It seems very hard to use our powers of discretion when it comes to telecommunications towers,” acting Shire president Julia Meldrum said.
Resident James Foster criticised consultation with Optus contractors about the location of the tower, which was behind a tree plantation slated for clearing and would not remain hidden. Mr Foster said no discussion was possible about moving the tower to a better nearby site.
“There has been no consultation with people who live in the area whatsoever,” he said.
“A landscaping plan will do little to shield a 43m phone tower on a hill.”
Mr Foster also said he was not “satisfied the option of co-location has been exhausted”.
A similar issue was raised during tower approvals last year, with councillors worried about the future effect of increasing numbers of towers across the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge.
Last fortnight councillors again mulled the lack of longrange strategic planning for the proliferation of towers, driven by consumer demand.
“I don’t support these towers popping up all over our beautiful countryside,” Cr Meldrum said.
Optus representative Mark Byrnes from Complan said tower sharing was of benefit to phone companies but was not possible on Stevens Road where the telco aimed to increase coverage over black spots.
Sustainable development di-rector Dale Putland said the Shire’s hands were tied because any further consultation once plans were submitted could cause delays, triggering a 90-day clause allowing Optus to take the matter to the State Administrative Tribunal for an immediate decision.
“It’s treated as critical infrastructure for our community,” Dr Putland said.
“Optus is going to use their own consultants and they are just going to give you the same argument they gave you tonight.”
It was “not practical” for the Shire to investigate other planning options, he said.
Cr Peter Lane said it was regrettable there was no planning provision allowing towers to be rejected.
“We are here, perhaps, to little more than rubber stamp it,” he said.
Cr Naomi Godden said she was disappointed to approve more towers but noted internet connection was now considered “a human right” by the United Nations.