The period to hand in objections to the construction of a “minor freestanding telecommunications base” in St James officially closed on Friday 2 October.
The community hopes they have done enough to stop this development.
An application submitted by Warren Petterson Planning and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to build a telecommunications base (also known as a mast tower) on a heritage protection overlay zone in St James received significant pushback from the community.
The applicants intend to build the telecommunications base on the remainder of Erf 88668 in St James – in the parking lot opposite St James Catholic Church on Main Road. The proposed mast will comprise of 12 micro-antennae on a 12m-high pole and three equipment containers, among other things.
The motivation for the application states the development will be “greatly beneficial for the inhabitants of St James” and local businesses, tourists and commuters.
“This benefit relates to the fact that an improvement will be experienced in terms of network provision and coverage. In its end, this will enhance the level of health and safety (accessibility to emergency services, for example, ambulances, police, fire department), social interaction (accessibility to social media, for example, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat) and economic efficiency (electronic methods of payments such as Zapper and Snap Scan and improved accessibility of businesses and individuals to faster, efficient and reliable internet and communication connectivity),” the motivation letter reads.
The letter also states that health aspects have been taken into consideration and “the applicants can confidently state, with proof, that there is no threat to the local residents’ health”.
Father Andrew Cox, from the Catholic Church, is less confident in the accuracy of this statement. He says, based on research presented to him during efforts to stop a similar construction in Constantia in recent years, he believes otherwise.
“I reject claims that these are harmless. I do not believe that. The school next door to me also seems to be opposed to it. I am opposed to it for medical reasons,” says Cox.
“We have children whose brains are forming and elderly people on the other side of the school who are vulnerable. I’m reluctant to have anything up here that can cause harm.”
A local resident Eckard Polter shares this sentiment, and adds that other measures can be taken to improve connectivity.
“There’s quite a movement against these masts because there is better technology than the masts, and the bigger factor is radiation – nobody wants to be exposed to the radiation. There is no proof that it’s beneficial for a place like St James – they can use fibre which is equally as fast.”
In an article published by TygerBurger it was stated that the City takes its cue on electromagnetic fields from the national government, which believes the health risks associated with the erection of the masts are limited. The government takes this guideline from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
But Polter believes the social impact is also a cause for concern. He says it will not be beneficial as “people spend more time on their phones and don’t talk to each other”.
The aesthetic impact on the area is another point of contention.
“A mast doesn’t fit into the history or the look of St James or Kalk Bay or Muizenberg,” Polter says.
Simon Liell-Cock, the councillor for ward 61, is confident that the look of the mast can be masked so as not to interfere with the scenic views.
“In Kalk Bay, what worked exceptionally well is to put it further down and they put it behind the palm trees – and that doesn’t destroy any natural beauty,” Liell-Cock explains.