“Illusion of Inclusion” – The Farce of Public Participation

Cell Tower at AGS Church, Number 5 Breda Street, Vergesig, Durbanville:

Image credit: D. Rowland, EMFSA

The Vergesig case is only one of many examples illustrating the “Illusion of Inclusion” farce. This is in regards to public participation, communities and cell tower placements. Communities are simply ignored and/or overruled.

Backgound:

The council received a substantial amount of objections to this mast. In addition a petition was circulated in the immediate area against this mast and base station leading up to the Municipal Planning Tribunal hearing. In less than six days, 202 residents signed this petition. The application for the free standing base tower was rejected by the Municipal Planning Tribunal on Tuesday April 11, 2017.

Highwave Consultants then appealed the decision of the Municipal Planning Tribunal.

MAYCO disregarded all the objections and approved the cell-tower, with the (then) Mayor de Lille personally signing approval for the tower.

Vergesig-Aurora Residents’ Association chairwoman Verne Jankielsohn said they had written to various members of the DA and the City to help with their fight, but to no avail. They had approached the Cape Party, which agreed to take on the case pro-bono.

The Cape Party (on behalf of the Vergesig-Aurora Residents’ Association) filed court papers in the Western Cape High Court late last year. The City filed opposing papers in January.

Advocate Carlo Viljoen said the Cape Party promoted the principle of direct democracy, endorsing the idea that the people of an area should make decisions regarding their lives and not a politician, and therefore decided to take on this case.

It’s clear in this instance that the will of the people was not to have a mast erected. In addition, it’s clear that there is no need for the mast, and that the erection of the mast is an illogical step by the DA, based on considerations outside the will of the people, legal considerations or need,” he said.

The case is to be heard in the Cape Town High Court in February.

First respondent: Patricia de Lille (she was the executive mayor when the tower was approved)

Second respondent: Highway Consultants (PTY) LTD

Objections included:

  • Property values decreasing
  • Ruining of the area’s rural image
  • Health concerns
  • A crèche is being operated from the church – in close proximity to the mast.
  • Alternative proposed sites were ignored
  • Residents also complained that they had not been properly consulted.
  • No need for added telecommunication services

EMFSA is very concerned that a cell tower was placed in an area where the most vulnerable in our society might be at risk. The Precautionary Principle was clearly ignored by the then Mayor Patricia de Lille and MAYCO. We note that some residents in close proximity to the tower are complaining of disrupted sleep since the tower became active.

Images  credit: D.Rowland, EMFSA

References:

  1. Verne Jankielsohn
  2. Denise Rowland
  3. EMFSA  notes on Cell Towers and the Precautionary Principle. www.emfsa.co.za
  4. Panel approves Vergesig tower https://www.northernnews.co.za/news/panel-approves-vergesig-tower11379050?fbclid=IwAR1taivoemTwFbZmMleBiuN4JHjJfw4XMu6_kwFFVKv7rjoSL4PEpNsDRa4
  5. Church cellphone mast soars towards heaven after planning rumpus https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2017-09-03-church-cellphone-mast-soars-towards-heaven-after-planning-rumpus/
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