There is anger in Bloubergrant after the City gave the go-ahead for a cell mast to be put up at a school.
Blouberg Ridge Primary School’s neighbours say they only learnt about plans for the mast there when they saw it being built.
“I am really concerned that the City can just approve a build of this magnitude without the knowledge of the people who live in the area. Is this the norm now?” said Zane van Rooyen, who lives in Wessels Road, near the school.
“Can the City just approve things without the resident’s input and next thing you see construction nearby?” Eliose Schoeman runs Smart Start Aftercare opposite the school and she fears for the well-being of her young charges.
“These towers send out a signal which causes children to have ADHD/ADD,” she said.
“How can the City even consider this with children on the premises. We are concerned as parents and the City needs to look into this.”
Karen Davis, chairperson of the Greater Table View Action Forum, said cell masts worried her.
“I live in Grey Avenue, and we got all the residents together to strongly oppose the application to put up a mast at the NG Church in our road. The main reasons for the objections, which were over 300, were on the grounds that the church is next to a retirement village, close to Table View High School and that the church, itself, operates a nursery school from their premises and that there is not enough evidence that the radiation from these towers does not affect children and elderly people,” she said.
Coast to Coast Towers is doing the installation. The firm’s operations manager, Marius Denton, said everything had been done by the book.
“There are strict measures put in place by the City that need to be followed throughout the application phase, one of which being public participation. Residents were given an opportunity to raise any concerns by means of registered post,” he said.
In an email, Mr Denton attached a document that had 36 registered-mail stamps, which he said was proof that letters had been sent out to residents in the area.
Alister Duminy, chairperson of the Blouberg Ridge Primary School Trust, which owns the land, said the tower’s emissions would be tested periodically to monitor radiation.
“There is a rental agreement in place which will provide income to the trust for the benefit of the school,” said Mr Duminy.
Residents said the approval permit shown to them by the City’s planning and development directorate after they complained was a “minor works” permit.
That raised eyebrows because when they went through the document listing application requirements for minor building work, it made no mention of a 25m-high tower.
According to the National Building Regulations and Standards Act (NBR) minor works projects are thing like wendy houses, fish ponds, wind turbines and jacuzzis — there’s nothing on the list higher than 5m.
Given both the ubiquity of cell masts and the controversy accompanying them, it’s puzzling that the “minor works” document doesn’t mention them, if indeed they’re supposed to be regarded as such.
Brett Herron, the City’s Mayco member for transport and urban development, said a cell mast could be properly evaluated without submitting the full spectrum of building plan requirements as set out in the NBR, as the minor-works process also followed a proper appointment of professional engineers and a certification process.
“It must be noted that Section 13 of the Minor Building Works Authorisation in the National Building Regulations and Standards Act is in no way a substandard to normal building plan approval nor does it neglect the structural integrity or health and safety evaluation process,” he said.
JP Smith, Mayco member for safety and security and social services, said the City’s health department took its lead on cell towers from the national Department of Health, which, in turn, followed World Health Organisation guidelines.
Mr Smith said measurement surveys by the City’s environmental health department had found that public exposure from cell-mast emissions, even as close as 25m from the source of exposure, were “only a fraction”, or “less than 1% to 4%” of guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
The ICNIRP is an independent organisation that provides scientific advice and guidance on the health and environmental effects of non-ionizing radiation to protect people and the environment from detrimental non-ionizing radiation exposure.
But Ms Davis isn’t convinced. She believes money is being put before children’s safety and that that needs to change, at least until more studies are done that prove conclusively that cell masts are safe.
“While I understand why schools and churches find this financially attractive, I honestly believe that the well-being of children, both mentally and physically, has to come first and should supersede any financial gain. More studies need to be conducted on the potential risks before this is allowed.”