Tokai, Cape Town, South Africa: Cell Tower Application Refused by Municipal Planning Tribunal

A cell tower application in Kirstenhof, Tokai (southern suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa) was refused by the City of Cape Town’s Municipal Planning Tribunal. The applicant has 21 days to appeal the decision of the MPT.

The Municipal Planning Tribunal (MPT) on 19 November 2019 refused in terms of section 98 of the City of Cape Town Municipal Planning By-Law, 2015 (MPBL):
1. The application for consent in terms of Item 59(b) of the Development Management Scheme to
permit a freestanding base telecommunication station on Remainder Erf 4212 Constantia, 31A TOKAI ROAD, KIRSTENHOF
2. The application for a departure, as set out in Annexure A, for Remainder Erf 4212 Constantia. 31A TOKAI ROAD, KIRSTENHOF

Comment by EMFSA:

“7.1.4 The proposal creates a potential health risk as the bottom of the antenna will be lower than the maximum permitted height on a property zoned General Business Subzone GB1, that is within 50m of the base station”

This item in the Policy does not make sense! Antennas can be and often are tilted up or down to attain best coverage. The Telecommunications Infrastructure Policy suggests that all antennas generate a central beam that is level with a flat terrain and therefore more than 50% of the generated radiation disappears off into space.

Furthermore, there is later in the policy a “get out of jail free” paragraph stating that if an inhabitable structure does fall within the 50m radius, but is measured to be at levels within the “informal” guidelines, then it is permissible.

Seems like they make it up as they go along!

Background:

-A similar application for consent to permit a freestanding base station on the subject property was submitted on 2 June 2018. The application was refused acceptance as it did not comply with Section 71 of the MPBL.
– A follow up application of a similar nature was submitted on 14 September 2018. This application was refused due to the failure to submit additional information timeously.

Objections:

Concerned residents mobilized and launched a social media campaign, working together as a team to oppose the application, supported by the Kirstenhof and Environs Residents Association, KERA.

52 objections were received.

Summary of objections received:
4.1. Objections received (see Annexure F) may be summarised as follows:
 Notices were “returned to sender” before some interested and affected parties could collect them.
 The notices served lacked meaningful detail; public participation was inadequate and due procedure was not followed.
The application is not in line with the Constitution.
 Judge Yekiso’s judgment which should overrule any By-Law states that a local authority is required to consider the contextual effect of buildings that will potentially be unsightly, objectionable or derogate neighbouring property values.
 The proposal does not comply with the Telecommunication Mast Infrastructure Policy with regards to visual impact, needs & character of the area and co-location.
 Significant financial loss can be expected upon sale of homes close to cell masts; this can be verified via a web search or with consultation from a reputable estate agent.
 The proposal is financially motivated at the expense of the neighbouring community.
 The proposed cell mast is significantly higher than the existing buildings in the area which will result in significant aesthetic disfigurement from many vantage points.
 The visual impact will affect the quality of life of the neighbouring properties.
 The property is zoned General Business Subzone GB1 with a maximum allowable height of 15m, the cell mast exceeds the height regulation for this zone. The cell mast must be amended to comply with the 15m height.
 The precautions implemented by the City are no guarantee that there will be no health issues caused by prolonged exposure to radiation.
 There is sufficient research to cast doubt on the safety of cell masts.
 The Municipality has a responsibility to protect all citizens within reason.
 The area is close to a SANPARK area which contains fragile ecosystems, endemic birds, fauna and flora, yet no environmental impact assessment was provided.
 The human exposure guidelines have not been updated in more than 20 years; a health impact survey should be conducted.
 There is an ongoing theft of batteries and equipment of cell masts throughout the City; this application will create temptation and invite crime into the area.
 The church building is older than 60 years; a permit from Heritage Western Cape is required.
 There is a mast proposed on Pollsmoor Road; co-location with such mast should be done instead of erecting another mast 916m from the mast at Pollsmoor Road.
 Approving the departure will set a precedent in the area thereby rendering the MPBL ineffective.

REASONS FOR DECISION
7.1. Reasons for the recommended decision for refusal relating to the application for the consent and departure may be summarised as follows:
7.1.1 The proposal does not comply with the desirability criteria in Section 99 of the Municipal Planning By-Law, 2015, insofar as its compatibility with surrounding uses is concerned.
7.1.2 The mast will be very visible from the all directions; the mast will dominate the sky line.
7.1.3 Possible alternatives have not been adequately investigated by the applicant.
7.1.4 The proposal creates a potential health risk as the bottom of the antenna will be lower than the maximum permitted height on a property zoned General Business Subzone GB1, that is within 50m of the base station.

MPT REPORT

DECISION LETTER