Church faces legal action

The Full Gospel Church has been given 60 days to prove this cell tower was authorised or they will have to remove it.

The City of Cape Town has threatened to take a Sunningdale church to court over the “illegal” cell mast on the church’s property.

Two weeks ago, Tabletalk reported that residents were fuming that the Telkom mast had gone up at the Full Gospel Church without them being notified (“Fury over cell tower,” Tabletalk, May 9).

Telkom argued that since the tower was a 15m-high one, it was governed by “different regulations” and didn’t need municipal approval.

The Full Gospel Church is one of two churches in the area that have courted public anger over permission they’ve given for cell masts to be built on their premises, which are both near nursery schools.

Brett Herron, Mayco member for transport and urban development, said the City had served a notice on Full Gospel on Tuesday April 10, giving it 60 days to show proof the mast on its property was authorised or else remove it.

“Failure to provide the aforementioned proof of authorisation within the 60-day period will result in the matter being handed over to a court of law,” said Mr Herron.

Pastor Linda Bekwa, of the Full Gospel Church, said Telkom had assured the church it could put the mast up without getting permission from the municipality.

“They said that Telkom, being a state-owned entity, does not require the approval from the municipality.

“We were led to believe that due process had been complied with.

“Apart from the legal requirements surrounding the erection of the cellular tower, as a pastor, I believe it to be my responsibility to care for the community. I will not allow anything on church ground, knowing that it poses health risks to congregants and the community,” said Mr Bekwa.

But this is not the first time Telkom has been in hot water over its cell masts.

On May 10 – in the same week that Tabletalk reported on the furore over the Full Gospel Church mast – the Western Cape High Court ruled a mast Telkom had put up in Heathfield on April 5 2016 was illegal.

Telkom had argued that it didn’t need to get permission from the municipality because it was rolling out telecommunications infrastructure on behalf of the national government whose authority trumped city zoning regulations. But the court disagreed.

It ruled municipalities had the right to control issues of zoning and matters that dealt with the use of land, even if those matters affected the interests of national government.

Meanwhile, not 5km away from the Full Gospel, another church has hit flak over its cell-mast plans.

In August last year, residents objected to an application that would have allowed the Dutch Reformed Church in Grey Avenue, Table View, to put up a cell mast on its premises.

The application was a three-pronged one: it sought approval for a stand-alone cell mast, the relaxation of the boundary of 5m and the rezoning of the property from single residential 1 (SR1) to community zoning 1 (CO1).

The City rejected the first two parts of the application but agreed to the rezoning.

According to Mr Herron, “the case is currently still in the appeal period and according to our records no new application was submitted.”

But residents like Chris Wiid and the Greater Table View Action Forum chairwoman Karen Davis fear the rezoning alone would be enough for the church to put up a rooftop cell mast.

SR1 allows for the land to be used for a place of worship, place of instruction, house shop and other primary uses.

The CO1 zoning would allow for a rooftop telecommunication station as one of the primary uses.

“This leaves room for them to apply for a cell mast on the roof of the church, which is what we were against in the first place,” said Mr Wiid.

Residents had until Monday May 21 to make objections to the rezoning, and Ms Davis said she knew of 15 people who had objected and others might have gone directly to the municipal offices.

Tabletalk sent questions to Telkom last Thursday, asking whether the mast at the Full Gospel Church would be removed or whether Telkom could offer proof it was authorised.

Finally on Tuesday morning, we got an email from an anonymous Telkom spokesperson with a two-line response to our questions: “Telkom is not aware of any communication between the City and the land owner. As such we cannot comment on this communication.”

The Dutch Reformed Church declined to comment and referred our questions to cell mast installer Atlas Towers, which did not respond to questions by the time this edition went to print.

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