By Shaun Gillham
A GROUP of Nelson Mandela Bay residents, businesses and a church are rallying in a bid to halt the erection of a cellphone company tower and base station in upmarket Walmer.
Cell C intends putting up the tower in Water Road, on a parcel of land to be rented from the Walmer Bowling Club, situated directly behind the Walmer town hall and library and directly opposite St John the Baptist Anglican Church’s retirement complex.
Cell C, which could not be reached for comment this week, has already sold off 960 of its existing towers to American Tower Corp, which purchased them for $140-million (R1.1-billion) through its South African subsidiary, and plans to purchase up to an additional 1800 towers that are either currently under construction or will be constructed in the next two to three years.
Brian Meyer, president of the Walmer Bowling Club, said the decision to lease out the land was made unanimously at a special general meeting of club members.
He said with the average age of its membership being 69, revenue was important to the club.
“A presentation was made to the club and we were shown environmental studies which indicated there was no harm to people from the tower. And a full environmental impact study has been done for the area,” he said.
Although he could not reveal the value of the deal, he said the initial lease period for land would be 10 years, with an option to renew.
Meyer could not say when the tower would be erected. “This is not in our hands right now and we have not yet signed a lease agreement. But I do think it is imminent.”
DA ward councillor David Hayselden said he objected “in principle” to the erection of the tower, while nutrition and lifestyle coach Tanya Wyatt, who has children who go to school in the area, said she was concerned over the public participation process followed.
Liza Hill of the Chiropractic Health Centre in Walmer was also not in favour due to the risks that cellphone towers could pose to health. “There are many schools and after-care centres in the vicinity of the proposed site,” she said, adding the public notification process had been inadequate.
Rev Robert Penrith, rector of the St John the Baptist Anglican Church, has forwarded an objection to the tower on behalf of his parish.
In a letter on behalf of the church executive, Penrith said the masts were “aesthetically very unpleasant”. He added “disguising the mast as a tree is an insult to the intelligence of local residents and just makes the structure look that much bigger”.
“Secondly, whereas you have given us a plan of the suburb, you have not indicated where on that erf the mast will be erected. There is, therefore, every possibility it could be directly outside of our main gate.”
He also raised health concerns about the tower.
But Geoff Beeton of ZTE, a company contracted to acquire tower sites on behalf of Cell C, said an environmental impact study conducted at the site had been approved and the process was now at the permits process stage which involved the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
He said the application for the tower was also being processed by civil aviation authorities and this process would take four to six weeks.
“The tower will be about 30 metres high and will be accompanied by a base station, which will be green in colour, which was a requirement put forward by the bowling club. The tower will be camouflaged and look similar to a yellow-wood tree,” he said.
This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday December 31. A community meeting to discuss the issue was held at Clarendon Park Primary on Monday night January 16.