ONCE again Telstra has reopened the lines of communication about its plan to put an eight-metre mobile tower on the roof of Castle Hill RSL Club.
A Telstra spokeswoman said: "We have undertaken to have additional consultation with the high school and the primary school and four daycare facilities [within 500 metres of the RSL] to ensure everyone has the opportunity to discuss the proposal."
Since August, the News has been reporting on a campaign by teachers and parents from five schools and four preschools to stop the tower on health grounds.
The RSL's group general manager David O'Neil said: "The club does not want, and has never wanted, the installation of a Telstra communications tower/antenna."
An RSL spokeswoman said the club's board was "compelled" to allow the tower because of the requirements of the Telecommunications Act 1997.
Telstra held its first community consultation in July, followed by two drop-in sessions.
It sent letters to residents within a 200-metre radius of the site and extended its submission period.
It's now considering whether to permit the RSL to pull out of its mobile tower lease.
Michelle Byrne, The Hills mayor and a medical scientist by profession, said she wrote to Telstra seeking to have the tower relocated.
"It is probably better to be cautious," she said.
The proposed tower does not require council approval but neighbouring federal MP Michelle Rowland, a telecommunications lawyer, said maybe it should.
"I support the long-standing position of the Australian Local Government Association that notification by development application is more likely to result in better community outcomes," Greenway MP, Ms Rowland, said.
She said she supports the NSW Department of Education's "preference" for telecommunications facilities to be built at least 500 metres from a school boundary.
"As a former local councillor and also a telecommunications lawyer, I know first-hand that the powers and immunities provisions granted to carriers are intended to be tempered by the Telecommunications Code of Practice," Ms Rowland said.
"Problems arise where the balance between consumer demand for reliable mobile coverage and the need for genuine stakeholder consultation breaks down."
Ms Rowland said she intended to raise the matter with federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The campaign has also gained the support from four local MPs: Alex Hawke (Mitchell), David Elliott (Baulkham Hills), Dominic Perrottet (Castle Hill) and Ray Williams (Hawkesbury).
Chris Althaus, the chief executive officer of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, said the current World Health Organisation fact sheet on base stations "addressed concerns about radio frequency signals and cancer", stating "the past 15 years of research has shown no evidence of increased cancer risks".
Dr Pri Bandara, an adviser to the international scientific advisory panel of the Environmental Health Trust, said if there was enough interest she would invite former WHO senior advisor Dr Davra Davis to Castle Hill to discuss her research into the prevention of diseases caused by mobile phone radiation.
Meantime, students at Castle Hill High have been encouraged by their teachers to sign and circulate an online petition and have helped hand-paint protest banners to be hung on theirs and other local schools’ fences.
A letterbox drop has also been planned by their school to let the public know about the campaign website.
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.
Week eight:Castle Hill RSL seeks permission from Telstra to pull out of the controversial mobile tower lease, and the lobby group calls 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’’.
We are now in week nine of the campaign.
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