‘No’ to cell mast

Mu­nic­i­pal­ity re­fuses con­tro­ver­sial ap­pli­ca­tion for NGK church land

Talk of the Town - - Front Page - JON HOUZET

NDLAMBE Mu­nic­i­pal­ity has re­jected a con­tro­ver­sial ap­pli­ca­tion to build a cell tower on the prop­erty of the Port Al­fred Dutch Re­formed Church in Broad­way, For­est Downs.

There were nu­mer­ous ob­jec­tions to the pro­posed cell tower from neigh­bours and sur­round­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers when the ap­pli­ca­tion first came to light in May last year.

Ob­jec­tors even staged a protest with plac­ards de­nounc­ing the pro­posal out­side the church while mem­bers ar­rived for Sun­day ser­vices, which re­sulted in some heated con­ver­sa­tions.

Some church mem­bers were un­der the im­pres­sion that the church board was merely in dis­cus­sions with BJB Project Ser­vices and did not re­alise a con­tract had been signed and how far along the process was.

After the pub­lic out­cry, Dias NGK min­is­ter Wikus Ven­ter sent a letter to one of the ob­jec­tors, Dawie van Wyk, of the Port Al­fred Res­i­dents and Ratepay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (Parra), in which he ex­plained the church had de­cided to “with­draw from the process of pos­si­ble erec­tion of cell­phone tow­ers in Ne­mato, Port Al­fred, Bush­man’s River, as well as Bok­nes”.

How­ever, it later emerged that the process was be­yond the church’s con­trol as it had signed over power of at­tor­ney to the cell mast com­pany, Atlas Tow­ers. BJB Projects was ap­pointed to pro­duce the ap­pli­ca­tion for de­par­ture with Ndlambe town plan­ning and no­tices were placed call­ing for pub­lic com­ment and ob­jec­tions by June 30 last year.

Res­i­dents sub­mit­ted ob­jec­tions to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity based on health con­cerns over elec­tro­mag­netic ra­di­a­tion, the way the process was be­ing con­ducted, and the im­pact of the tow­ers on prop­erty val­ues.

Van Wyk and an­other ob­ject­ing neigh­bour, Charles Pellew, met with Ven­ter be­fore the dead­line and said the out­come of the meet­ing was that the church would sup­port the ob­jec­tions, as it could not get out of the agree­ments signed with Atlas Tower and BJB Projects with­out in­cur­ring ex­pense.

The church also placed an ad­ver­tise­ment in Talk of the Town on June 15 last year, in which it stated that the ini­tial idea of the project was for com­mu­nity ben­e­fit, as all rental in­come from the masts would have gone to­wards com­mu­nity projects the church is in­volved in.

But in want­ing to main­tain a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­nity, the church coun­cil de­cided to with­draw from the project.

With power of at­tor­ney, how­ever, Atlas Tow­ers con­tin­ued with the ap­pli­ca­tion.

In a letter to BJB Project Ser­vices dated April 13, Ndlambe Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s act­ing di­rec­tor of in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment Onke Sopela said the com­pany had failed to pro­vide ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion asked for in pre­vi­ous cor­re­spon­dence, nor re­sponded in time, and the ap­pli­ca­tion was “re­fused for con­sid­er­a­tion”.

“The file is hereby closed,” Sopela said.

Among the is­sues BJB Projects had been asked to ad­dress in a letter in Fe­bru­ary was its con­tention that there were no re­stric­tive con­di­tions for the NGK prop­erty, but the mu­nic­i­pal­ity pointed out there were ti­tle deed re­stric­tions and an ap­pli­ca­tion to re­move them needed to be made.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity also asked for a copy of the church coun­cil res­o­lu­tion grant­ing Ven­ter to act on be­half of the church and to also pro­vide the lease agree­ment signed to this ef­fect.

“The pro­posed struc­ture en­croaches on build­ing lines and this has not been ad­dressed,” town plan­ning man­ager Ntombi Ngxwashula wrote in the Fe­bru­ary letter.

“The mo­ti­va­tional re­port must be re­vis­ited and en­sure that the Spluma [Spa­tial Plan­ning and Land Use Man­age­ment Act] prin­ci­ples are ad­dressed and the com­pli­ance with the Ndlambe SDF [spa­tial de­vel­op­ment frame­work],” she said.

An ap­proval from the SA Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity was also re­quired.

Van Wyk and other ob­jec­tors wel­comed the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s de­ci­sion.


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