Residents are up in arms again regarding the alleged lack of public participation involved in an application for building line relaxation to construct a cell mast at 32 Buckingham Avenue, Craighall Park.
ACE Environmental, who is in charge of site acquisition and the facilitation of the public participation process on behalf of Telkom, said they sent out registered post to all adjacent landowners with a 21-day objection period.
However, residents only received notification from the post office to collect their letters on 26 October; four days after the deadline for objections had passed.
This is the second time that ACE Environmental has attempted their application to construct a cell mast at this site after their first application was rejected because of various errors in the proposal.
Resident of the property opposite the proposed site Kerryn Lawson said she was angered by this second proposal.
“Doing this in an under-handed way appears to be their modus operandi. They will have to get rid of three mature pine trees to put up this mast. We have lost so many trees already because of the shot-hole borer. This is so unnecessary.”
Another neighbour, Meg McTaggart, said that on 30 October she had still received no notification about the proposal. “We hope to petition against this. I would love to know why my neighbour wants this mast.”
On 1 November, 15 residents of surrounding properties and Ward 90 councillor Martin Williams met outside the site where the 15-metre high mast is set to be installed. The property owner complained to Williams that the way in which this matter is being handled is uncivilised. “Other areas would kill for something like this,” said the property owner, claiming harassment and intimidation from his neighbours.
Andrea Rosen of the Johannesburg Urban Forest Alliance (Jufa) said she objects to this proposal on the grounds that large, mature trees will need to be removed in order to accommodate the mast.
“We are facing an environmental crisis as a result of the polyphagous shot-hole borer infestation ravaging our urban forest. We simply cannot afford to lose healthy, mature trees,” said Rosen.
Williams said that he is concerned about the public participation process, which he believes to be procedurally flawed.
“In the latest attempt, the applicants may have corrected some factual and typographical errors, but once again the notices were not received in good time by the affected parties. The applicants were made well aware that the postal system was unreliable, yet, they seem to have relied on the same system that previously let them down,” said Williams, adding that he had not received notification of the reapplication despite ACE Environmental’s comment to him on 12 September that they would keep him updated.
A representative from ACE Environmental, who asked to remain anonymous said, “At the moment, the proposed site area and its surrounding areas have a network capacity problem. The proposed telecommunications mast is strategically located to increase network capacity in the area.”