Cell mast plans hit flak in Table View

Flamingo Vlei residents are not happy about an application to put up a cell tower at Whimbrel Park.

Flamingo Vlei and Sunningdale residents are objecting to two applications to put up cell towers in their neighbourhoods.

One of the masts is proposed for a park and could threaten the health of children who play their daily, say residents.

Megan Davey said she and other residents had received a notice in their postboxes, on Thursday September 28, giving them just under a month to comment on a plan to lease a piece of land in Flamingo Vlei’s Whimbrel Park for a 12-metre high cell mast.

The proposal had not been subjected to an independent environmental impact study, “which one would think is most necessary due to the location next to Rietvlei nature reserve”, she said.

Several residents and the civic group, Greater Table View Action Forum (GTAF), are objecting to the application.

“We do not agree with cell masts near children and in a park. That is not on,” said GTAF chairwoman Karen Davis. “While we understand that there isn’t sufficient evidence of safety or any dangers, the City cannot be considering putting up a cell mast in a park where children play.”

At 16 Breckenridge Road, in Sunningdale, there is a similar application to lease a 24m² site for a 12-m high cell mast. The site is about 400m from Chalkwood Nursey School and about 600m from Sunningdale Primary School.

The applicant is Rich Rewards Leasing Pty Ltd, which has 17 similar applications across the metro, including ones in Montague Gardens, Summer Greens and Sunningdale, according to documents on the City’s website.

Table View resident Timothy Potgieter said that just because there was no definitive proof that cell towers made people sick did not mean they were safe.

“We have no idea how much of an effect exposure to such towers has on people, especially young people. We might think all is well in the world of continuous communication, radio waves, bits of radiation, but we don’t know the long term effects of this.”

Ward councillor Joy Solomon said her initial reaction to the Whimbrel Park application had been to reject it, but she had later reconsidered.

“We all live on our cellphones, laptops and other devices which use the signal transmitted by these towers. And we have our cellphone glued to our heads most of the day with no ill effect. To date, there is no proven ill-effect from the location of a cellphone tower mast near residential buildings. Research shows it’s very unlikely that a person could be exposed to radio frequency levels exceeding the limit by just living near a cell tower. In addition, the City has a comprehensive cellphone policy governing these regulations to ensure no exposure and this tower will be no exception,” she said.

Mayoral committee member for economic growth James Vos said that all relevant environmental departments would consulted to ensure no harm was done to the environment and surroundings.

“With regards to concerns of any health risks, this is a commonly feared phenomenon by the public when discussing cellular communication. However, most households have several mobile devices, all of which are used regularly. Current research on telecommunications base stations has reached a point whereby scientists are satisfied that the base stations do not pose a health threat,” he said.

“Research on handsets is, however, ongoing, as it is deemed that placing the handset against your head could pose a greater threat to health. In a statement made by the World Health Organization it is stated that effects from base stations and wireless networks are so low that the temperature increases are insignificant and do not affect human or animal health.

“South Africa’s Department of Health has also published electric and magnetic fields exposure limit guidelines. Emissions from all existing and proposed base stations comply with these guidelines and are far below international standards.”

The American Cancer Society has this to say about exposure to radiofrequency (RF) radiation: “At this time, there’s no strong evidence that exposure to RF waves from cell phone towers causes any noticeable health effects. However, this does not mean that the RF waves from cell phone towers have been proven to be absolutely safe. Most expert organisations agree that more research is needed to help clarify this, especially for any possible long-term effects.”

Tabletalk emailed and tried calling Rich Rewards since Friday last week, but we received no response by deadline.