Edgemead residents believe public participation has become a mere formality for cell tower developers who have put up two masts in the suburb before the consultation process was over.
Those who had received a brown envelope on June 6 containing a request for consent to put up a cell mast on Southdale Road were shocked when they viewed the site on Sunday June 13 and saw the 15m mast next to a store when the public participation deadline was Wednesday July 6.
According to Edgemead Residents’ Association chairman, Emile Coetzee, it was not the only one to go up illegally: another half-built mast was spotted outside the Engen garage, on the corner of Edgemead Drive and Bosmansdam Road. He witnessed work starting on that one on Saturday June 11.
“I received an email on Sunday June 12 from a resident who had received a registered letter, dated June 6, for consent of the installation of a cellular base station in Southdale Road by Warren Petterson Planning. The following evening, I took a drive to go look at the proposed site only to discover the tower had already been built.
“Coincidently another mast was also erected by a different construction company, other than Warren Petterson Planning, on Saturday June 11 at the Engen garage on the corner of Edgemead Drive and Bosmansdam Road.
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“The building inspector went onsite on Monday after I had notified our ward councillor about it, and it was discovered that the contractor had no plans. They were told to cease further work,” said Mr Coetzee.
Mr Coetzee said Warren Petterson Planning had pulled the same “stunt” in Edgemead in 2013 when the community discovered a mast built with invalid plans, as the constructed tower was higher than was stipulated on the final plan.
“The problem is the City,” said Mr Coetzee.
“There appears to be no consequences for building towers without approved plans. The tower Warren Petterson Planning built in 2013 was allowed to remain while new plans were submitted, despite numerous objections from residents.
“We are now in the exact same situation again where a tower has been built without approved plans, and I would like to know what action the City will be taking against this contractor.”
When contacted, Warren Petterson of Warren Petterson Planning said his company had not erected the mast, but simply did the application for it on behalf of Telkom.
Mr Petterson said that if Telkom had built the mast before the public participation was concluded then it was Telkom who were being “naughty”.
Telkom spokeswoman Jacqui O’Sullivan said the construction of the tower had not required any public participation and that all requirements were met.
“The law requires public participation when the structure is higher than 15m.
“In this case, in Edgemead, the structure is less than 15m high. So no public participation was required for the erection of the mast. Telkom is, however, following the necessary public participation with the municipality, for the relaxation of the building line.
“The municipality was informed of the installation. But, as long as the installation is less than 15m high, the installation is allowed by provisions within the Public Finance Management Act,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
However, the City’s mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, Johan van der Merwe, said the City’s planning and building development management (PBDM) department’s was taking action against the illegally erected cell masts on Southdale Road and Edgemead Drive.
“It was brought to the City’s PBDM department’s attention that the cell mast was already erected by the time the application for consent was submitted and accordingly advertised to surrounding property owners via registered mail in June 2016.
“Therefore, notices will be served in terms of the erection of an unauthorised structure and for the land use contravention, as there are no land-use rights applicable to the property to operate a telecommunication mast, irrespective if an application is being processed or not,” said Mr Van der Merwe.