Construction starts on Castle Hill telco tower

TELSTRA has begun constructing an 8-metre-high mobile phone tower on the roof of Castle Hill RSL, much to the anger of teachers and parents from five schools and four preschools who spent five months opposing it.

Group spokeswoman Elizabeth Madders said they hoped construction would be halted until the Australian Communications and Media Authority — the body responsible for telecommunications regulation — got back to them about whether the carrier complied with the Mobile Deployment Code with regards to implications arising from having a tower at this "community-sensitive" location.

She is a member of Castle Hill High's Parents & Citizens' Association.

The school faces the RSL.

The Hills Councillor Tony Hay said he'd ask "to get a switchover going from Telstra to any other carrier, particularly through the P&Cs at the high school and primary school".

Carolyn Vanderklauw spoke about possible health dangers of the tower at the last The Hills Council meeting.

Her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 after 11 years sleeping about "100 metres in direct line-of-sight" with a tower and died in 2008.

Cr Yvonne Keane said as a mother she wouldn't feel comfortable sending her children to Castle Hill High with a tower so close.

Cr Mike Thomas said many residents were waiting for a tower so they could take calls, including him.

Cr Keane said: "We are not the bad guys." By law the tower does not require council approval.

On November 7, The Hills Council commented on the approval process for this tower on its Facebook page, stating:

A telecommunications tower has been approved to be built on top of Castle Hill RSL, however The Hills Shire Council had no part to play in the approval process.

The tower was approved under the State Environment Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007, commonly known as “SEPP Infrastructure”.

Under this policy, a telecommunications tower can be approved as complying development, meaning it must be approved as long as it meets a set of pre-determined criteria.

If all the criteria are met, the application cannot be refused.

Unlike a traditional development application (DA) which involves council and the community, complying development is not notified to the public for comment.

A complying development certificate can be issued either by council or an accredited private certifier.

In this case, the applicant (Aurecon), appointed an accredited private certifier, which issued the certificate on October 28.

Council had no part to play whatsoever in the approval process.

A copy of the certificate was uploaded on council’s website so it could be on the public record.

There are no avenues of appeal against the determination of the complying development certificate.

FOLLOW THE STORY:

Week one:  Teachers and parents from five schools and four preschools unite to stop Telstra erecting an 8-metre mobile tower on the roof of Castle Hill RSL.

Week two:  More than 500 people sign a petition to stop Telstra erecting an 8-metre mobile tower on the roof of Castle Hill RSL. Politicians also weigh in. 

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’’.

Week nine: Telstra re-opens the lines of communication and schedules another community consultation.

Week 10: Telstra confirms at the last of its community consultation meetings that it will go ahead with an eight-metre mobile phone tower on the roof of Castle Hill RSL.

Week 12:Telstra is to soon start building a new $250,000 8-metre mobile tower on the roof of Castle Hill RSL, with the assurance it will  undertake post-construction electro-magnetic emission [EME] measurements at Discovery House Pre School, next to the RSL.

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