Tower tick looks likely
SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council may support construction of a 33m telecommunications tower that would dominate the heart of Leongatha, despite widespread community objection.
Council will tomorrow night (Wednesday) debate the proposal, backed by council’s planning department.
The monopole tower will be the tallest structure in the CBD. It is proposed for 54 Bair Street, at the rear of a dental clinic, despite the Code of Practice for Telecommunications Facilities in Victoria (July 2004) stating such towers must be located to minimise any interruption to a significant view, a streetscape, vista or panorama.
Council received 18 written objections to the tower, with one submission signed by 13 people.
Only mayor Cr Warren Raabe and Cr Jeanette Harding heard objectors’ concerns last Wednesday evening. Three councillors – David Lewis, Mimmie Jackson and Jim Fawcett – were absent due to conflicts of interest, and other councillors had other events to attend. Only six councillors will be able to vote on the issue tomorrow.
The visual impact of the tower was the objectors’ greatest concern, citing the tower would dominate views of the town and particularly entrances to Leongatha.
Objectors Jim and Jenny Williams own 52 Bair Street. Mr Williams claimed the tower would be as high as a five storey building.
“This is fairly out of character with the Leongatha skyline and with the changing technologies, will we need such structures in the future?” he said.
A consultant for Optus, David Hughes, told council last Wednesday afternoon the company had tried to minimise the visual impact.
“A carpark was considered as an option but council preferred us to go to a private location,” he said.
Asked by Cr Bob Newton why council property was not chosen as a location, Mr Hughes responded: “I believe that it was better for council for us to explore all private land options before considering council property.”
The council report to tomorrow’s meeting states: “It is considered the proposed tower will be partly screened from view at street level in Bair Street and McCartin Street, the principle (sic) pedestrian and traffic centres in the town, by the existing buildings and awnings over the footpath which limit extensive views of the sky.
“Notwithstanding, the tower will be visible from a number of vantage points around the town, particularly for traffic entering the town from Koonwarra Road, where the proposed tower will directly within (sic) the line of sight for both vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
“However, a number of vertical structures such as power poles, light poles, antennas and other telecommunication facilities already establish a vertical element in views of the skyline of Leongatha, including the view from Koonwarra Road.”
Health impacts were also raised.
“If someone was to get a life-threatening illness that may not have anything to do with the tower, the tower could be blamed. This stigma is in human nature and would affect our ability to lease the building and may make it vacant, which we do not want in Leongatha,” Mr Williams told council.
Optus claims that electromagnetic energy levels at 1.5m above ground level would be about 0.039 per cent of public exposure limits set by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.
Council chief executive officer Tim Tamlin was unsure why council had rejected previous approaches to have the tower sited on council buildings, as that decision was made before his tenure began.
He told The Star he did not have concerns about the impacts of radiation on staff.
The Williamses believed the tower could be co-located with the new fire station proposed for the other side of Bair Street.
Cr Raabe was worried about the visual impact and Cr Harding was concerned the tower could set a precedent.
Optus told council sites outside of Leongatha could not be considered as the company has “specific coverage needs”.
“Alternative sites within the township, such as in the Industrial Zone or in the recreation area, are significantly lower than the town centre, and would require much larger, frame style aerials, such as the 55 metre high tower previously proposed and refused by council,” the council report stated.
“A site within the highest part of the town enables the overall height of the tower to be reduced and its visual appearance to be minimised by allowing a slim, monopole design.”
A council report stated improved communication services would encourage business investment and development in Leongatha, and that the tower would not impact the shire’s “environment and cultural heritage”.
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