RESIDENTS who live near a proposed, 35-metre mobile phone tower on green wedge land in Grant Road, Somerville, say the structure is just metres from homes and will create a visual and health “nightmare”.
Landowner Karyn Murray, whose said the proposed tower is only 15 metres from some property boundaries, said there needed to be a “rethink” about the way telecommunication coverage is addressed across the peninsula, with more consideration given to “protecting residents’ health and well-being”.
“I purchased and moved [to Webbs Lane] in January 1998. What attracted me to this property was the peacefulness, knowing that being on a green wedge zone with an environmental significance overlay I could find ongoing peace in nurturing the land and myself,” she said.
“Upfront I want to acknowledge that the placement of a mobile tower at the site would have unimaginable and unmeasurable impacts on our quality of life.”
Murray said the location of mobile towers on the peninsula was wrongly driven “by those who benefit financially from the mobile tower: the infrastructure provider or neutral host and landowner”.
“Community members have no visibility until a planning application hits the ‘notice’ phase,” she said.
“If planning for mobile towers was led by the Mornington Peninsula Shire and a co-designed approach adopted with community and telecommunications industry stakeholders, shared ownership of decisions and improved planning outcomes could be achieved.”
The application by Stilmark – an independent neutral host operator – was submitted to Mornington Peninsula Shire Council in early September, with submissions due last Tuesday (20 Sept).
The site is on land occupied by Peninsula Quarries and owned by its parent group Bayport Industries.
Although all mobile phone towers transmit electromagnetic energy, there is no proven Australian evidence of public health risks from exposure from mobile phones or mobile phone towers (ARPANSA). The CSIRO in a report from 1995 urged more research on health effects be carried out.
Murray said residents were still concerned, given conflicting evidence about the health risks, and the visual impacts of the large tower.
“I know we need better telecommunications around this area, but shouldn’t there be a balance between the need and the damage for residents,” she said.
“I don’t think we have had enough time to consider this. We are close and in direct line of sight, from the front of our home, from our east facing windows (including or bedroom) and from every aspect of our property – there is no escaping the visually imposing size, scale and noise of the facility.”
Stilmark spokesman Chris Hayes said there was a significant gap in the coverage footprint of mobile phone facilities in the surrounding area.
Hayes said the tower has been sited in an area that is “distanced from residences”, is screened by vegetation in the vicinity, and would utilise a monopole which does not create significant bulk.
“Stilmark has recently received planning permits for new telecommunications facilities in Rosebud and Tyabb, and a notice of decision has also been provided for a facility at Bittern,” he said.
“There are currently a number of additional permit applications with the council for facilities at Hodgins Road in Hastings, Pottery Road in Somerville and Stumpy Gully Road in Balnarring.
“These are all locations where mobile telecommunications services require improvement, and new, centrally located facilities will enable the mobile phone carriers to provide enhanced coverage into these areas of the Mornington Peninsula.”
Hayes said Stilmark was committed to improving access to critical mobile services through its “collaborative approach” of working with residents, the council and the mobile phone carriers.
Council’s manager development services, David Simon, said people who needed more time to prepare a submission could request it by emailing and providing reasons why they can’t get a submission in within the timeframe.
He said council must consider all the relevant sections of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the Mornington Peninsula Planning Scheme when making a decision. Among other things, it must consider design, siring, construction, and operation of a facility, and its effect on neighbouring properties.