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Fire sparked call for mobile phone tower

A TELSTRA telecommunications tower in Mount Helena was approved by Mundaring Council this week with several environmental, disturbance and visual impact reduction conditions.

Mount Helena resident’s association president Joan Quinn and a representative from the local tennis club made presentations against the 35m tower proposed at the Elsie Austin Reserve.

Mrs Quinn said the resident’s association met in January to discuss the placement of the tower.

“We are supportive of the telecommunications tower but propose that it not be built at the Elsie Austin Reserve,” she said.

“It has a community garden and youth orientated facilities within 200m. 

“Setbacks and visual amenities will fade but the large scale impact on young minds and bodies may be at question for the whole community.”

The tennis club representative said members were not in favour of the proposal.

“We are worried we will lose members, as we have some young mums who bring their toddlers and are concerned about this proposal,” she said.

“We also think it will be an eyesore next to the pavilion that the shire hires out for events.”

Telstra acquisition manager Emily Pink said the proposal for a tower at a different site in the suburb in 2012 was unsuccessful and that the company was later approached by the shire after the Parkerville fires in 2014 to improve coverage in the area. 

“We’ve looked at a few candidates over the past four to five years and we believe we have found the right site,” she said.

“We worked closely with council planners to find a site that met our coverage objectives and had the least visual impact.” 

She said the closest telecommunications tower to Mount Helena was located 10km away.

“We’re on many reserves with sporting facilities, soccer grounds, golf courses, we’re lodging a development application for St Ives in Kallaroo, a retirement village,” she said.

“We’re also on every major hospital in the metro area and universities and high schools.

“You (the Shire) came to us in 2013-14 after the fires.

“Mobiles are another way of communication in an emergency, this will give you instant data transfer in and around town.”

Item mover deputy president Lynn Fisher said the perceived health hazard was not supported by evidence and was not a valid reason for refusal. 

“The solution is a good community education campaign to counter negative perceptions with the evidence that there are no significant health hazards from the proposed pole,” Cr Fisher said. 

She also said it was unfortunate Telstra had not consulted with the tennis club and any future discussions on design and landscaping should include the club.

Twelve out of 15 submissions received by the shire objected to the proposal. 

A council report said because the proposal intended to minimise the visual impact on surrounding residents and fulfill a broader community need for improved digital connectivity, it was recommended that Council approves the application subject to the conditions. 

One of the conditions included the requirement for additional vegetation planting on the verge of Austin Close to assist in obscuring the tower from view of residents adjacent to the tower.

By Claire Ottaviano

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