Spurred by community discontent, Castle Hill RSL has sought permission from Telstra to pull out of a controversial mobile tower lease.
‘‘The club will sign an appropriate legal release necessary to facilitate the cancellation of this lease,’’ group general manager David O’Neill said in a letter to Telstra.
Since early August, the News has been reporting on a campaign by teachers and parents from five schools and four preschools to stop Telstra erecting an eight-metre mobile tower on the RSL’s roof.
Campaign instigator, Castle Hill High School, faces the club.
The group has started putting up banners, including hand-painted ones, around the community that read: ‘‘No Telstra towers near our schools’’.
The banners direct people to their campaign website — notower.com.au — where they call on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to make good on a 1995 promise to ‘‘take away the exceptions and immunities which Telstra currently enjoys [under federal law] to put these things [mobile phone towers] virtually where it likes’’.
The site includes links to YouTube clips of Mr Abbott protesting against the installation of a tower near a preschool in his electorate.
Watch the television coverage of Tony Abbott before he was Prime Minister promising to change Australia's telecommunications law to better protect children.
The News asked his office about his promise three times last week but is yet to receive a response.
In a speech to the Legislative Assembly, Baulkham Hills state MP David Elliott said he ‘‘could not express his disgust strongly enough’’ with the way Telstra had chosen to push ahead with construction of this tower, ‘‘despite alternative sites having been suggested by the community’’.
He said Telstra’s behaviour was ‘‘nothing short of a disgrace’’.
“If Telstra wishes to continue to treat locals in this way it should not be surprised when my constituents and community leaders act to damage its brand,” Mr Elliott said.
He reminded Telstra of the Education Department’s ‘‘preference’’ for telecommunications facilities to be built at least 500 metres from a school boundary, as identified in its Mobile Telecommunications Policy implemented in 1997.
‘‘Telstra installs new infrastructure under the terms of the Mobile Deployment Code, which does not include any distance between schools and mobile network infrastructure,’’ Telstra’s spokeswoman said in August.
We asked the Education Department if it had considered reviewing its policy, but were told no.
But it’s not just schools and preschools who are worried about the health of their children if this tower goes ahead.
The 1st Castle Hill Scouts secretary Tracey Hourd said Scouts as young as six regularly camped on the hall grounds adjacent to Castle Hill RSL.
She worried they may soon be camping in direct line of sight of a telecommunications mast.
Chris Althaus, the chief executive officer of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, told the News ‘‘the mobile phone industry acknowledges that some people are genuinely concerned and we are committed to addressing these concerns responsibly through active community and local government consultation’’.
He pointed readers to the current World Health Organisation fact sheet on base stations which ‘‘addressed concerns about radio frequency signals and cancer and [which says] the past 15 years of research has shown no evidence of increased cancer risks’’.
Mr O’Neill said in his letter to Telstra that the club never wanted a tower on its premises and had been telling Telstra that since early 2012.
He said Telstra should look for a new site.
FOLLOW THE STORY:
Week three: The community learns Castle Hill RSL has signed a lease to allow Telstra to install a tower on its roof. But a spokeswoman says the community should keep up the pressure because Telstra could back down.
Week five: Mitchell federal MP Alex Hawke calls on Telstra to consider building its next telecommunications mast at Castle Hill Showground instead of Castle Hill RSL Club. Telstra says the site is too close to its existing sites at Fred Caterson Reserve and at Gladstone Road.
Week six: Carolyn Vanderklauw writes to Telstra seeking a written guarantee the eight-metre mobile tower they plan to erect on Castle Hill RSL Club's roof is "safe". She's concerned because in 2005 her older sister Jennifer, then 32, was diagnosed with breast cancer, after 11 years spent sleeping about "100 metres in direct line-of-sight" with a tower.
We are now in week eight of the campaign.
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