Cell towers dial up protests
Many structures built in residential areas don't go through public approval process
By Gordon Kent, Edmonton JournalFebruary 27, 2010 Comments (30)
Fadumo Mohamed, right, and her neighbours are suffering from headaches they blame on a cellphone tower, background, which has been erected only a few metres from Fadumo's bedroom window.
Photograph by: Chris Schwarz, The Journal, Edmonton Journal
Fadumo Mohamed says she is so upset by the cellphone tower installed this month a few metres from her back fence that she has a hard time sleeping.
The white metal structure looms over her home, leaving her worried about possible health dangers from radiation emissions and unhappy with her view.
"It's very tall. Whenever I see this thing, I feel dizzy. I feel like it's going to fall on top of my house," she said Friday.
The tower, built on the edge of the Dickinsfield Mall parking lot, is one of hundreds in Edmonton serving the growing demand for cellphones and their increasingly sophisticated applications.
While many telecommunications installations generate little debate because they're located in industrial subdivisions or use rooftop antennas, facilities in residential areas can stir up controversy.
Mohamed said she would have objected if she'd known the tower was coming, although Wind Mobile sent out a notification to local residents in December "as a courtesy" indicating it would be built.
A Wind Mobile spokesman couldn't be reached for comment.
Under city policy, a company that wants to put up "significant" towers or structures must talk to planners and the community league, as well as notifying landowners within a set distance and holding a public meeting.
Once the city learns the company's response to any objections, it indicates whether it supports the proposal to Industry Canada, which has final approval.
But this process generally doesn't apply for towers less than 15 metres high, ones on top of buildings that are downtown or more than six storeys, or when the structures are separated from a residential area by an arterial road.
Since July 2008, the city has concurred in about 110 installations, officials say. It hasn't objected to any, although some proposals were changed following negotiations and two or three were withdrawn.
Westmount residents are now fighting a proposed 30-metre tower near the southeast corner of Groat Road and 111th Avenue.
The main concerns are that it will hurt home prices and potentially cause health problems, community league president Dave Thompson said.
"It's very surprisingly close to housing. Towers are usually in industrial places, parking lots, malls."
An open house was held in January. Opponents have set up a Facebook page and received letters of support from their MLA and MP.
"If they start moving into neighbourhoods, I think they're going to face a lot of fights. People don't want to have their property values brought down."
Jeff Price, director of development and zoning services, said the city hasn't yet decided whether it will support the proposal.
Anecdotal information suggests such objections haven't often occurred, possibly because people know towers must go somewhere or don't mind the design, but there could be more debate in the future, Price said. "They can't go exclusively in industrial areas. They're maybe going more in residential areas ... it's going to create a problem when they do this circulation (of information) -- people are going to say 'I don't want that.' "
Coun. Ben Henderson said many towers are so unobtrusive people don't realize they exist, but he wants more clarity about how the city decides which projects to support.
"If we were putting up a 60-foot anything else, we would be looking at how it fits. Why would a cell tower be different?" he asked.
"We're saying we think people should have input, but we're not setting any benchmarks about when (towers) are appropriate."
An interesting article in GQ about the health hazards of cell phones and Wi-Fi.
"In April 2008, the national library of France, citing possible "genotoxic effects," announced it would shut down its Wi-Fi system, and the staff of the storied Library of Sainte-Geneviève in Paris followed up with a petition demanding the disconnection of Wi-Fi antennas and their replacement by wired connections."
Independent research consistently shows that cell phones and Wi-Fi pose real health hazards, while research funded by the cell phone industry consistently demonstrates there's absolutely nothing to worry about.
Would a librarian who advocated shutting down Wi-Fi services be taken seriously, or dismissed as a crank?
Martin Weatherall says:
A librarian would be taken very seriously by anyone who takes the time to read about the adverse health effects of wireless (microwave) radiation.
Those health effects have been known for over sixty years, when radar was first used by military personnel.
The scientific evidence showing harm to health is staggering and you will wonder why it is not more widely known. (many good books on the subject are available).
A good place to find scientific evidence about harm to health from electro magnetic radiation is the Bio Initiative Report. This can be accessed at http://www.bioinitiative.org
Wi-Fi is dangerous technology which does not belong in libraries or public spaces.
There are safe (wired) alternatives which should be used.
Plans for Darras Hall phone mast dropped
Feb 27 2010 by David Black, The Journal
CONTROVERSIAL plans to site a mobile phone mast next to a popular school were dropped yesterday after hundreds of residents sent out a clear message of protest to a telecoms giant.
Telefonica O2 announced it will not go ahead with erecting the 12.5 metre-high mast outside 450-pupil Darras Hall First School in Ponteland, Northumberland, following a meeting with community leaders.
Instead the company said it will work in partnership with the local community and council planning officers to find an alternative and less sensitive site.
The U-turn is a major victory for campaigners who have opposed putting the mast next to the school or elderly people's flats on The Broadway.
O2's decision came after several hundred local people turned up to stage an impressive demonstration prior to yesterday's meeting in Ponteland United Reformed Church Hall.
Parents, grandparents and children from local schools defied heavy rain to turn out with placards saying No2O2 and greet company representatives arriving for the meeting.
Fences and hedges on roadsides near the school were festooned with large banners saying Education Not Radiation, Brainwaves Not Microwaves and Keep Us From Harm, Put The Mast On A Farm
02 agreed to meet local MPs and MEPs, county councillors, planning officials and community representatives in a bid to find a compromise solution to the eight-month row.
It has been simmering ever since the company gained planning permission for the school site because of a county council blunder in May last year. Yesterday O2 regional communications manager Tom Powell said: "What we have done today is agree not to proceed with the site which has planning permission. We will now work with the local community and planning authority in order to achieve a suitable solution to this problem.
"We are required to improve mobile coverage for our customers in the Darras Hall area and we will do that."
Hexham MP Peter Atkinson, who took part in the meeting, said the residents' demonstration had been fantastic, and he was pleased that 02 would not now go ahead with the school site.
"I don't believe there has ever been a mobile phone mast protest in the North East with so many people as were here today. It was a huge turnout and O2 were clearly impressed. They have not given a commitment that the mast won't go up in a residential area, but I believe everyone is satisfied with the progress that has been made.
"I think people high up in O2 have realised they were looking at a public relations disaster here, and they have now acted reasonably and sensibly."
Businessman Ian McLean, who lives in The Drey, Darras Hall and whose daughter, Lola, is a pupil at the school, said the protest was intended to show O2 that there was a real determination among local residents to fight the mast. He said there were fears about the impacts of phone masts on the health of people living close to them, including worrying evidence of cancer clusters and other problems.
O2 gained planning permission to build the mast next to the school by default in May last year. The county council rejected its planning application, but failed to make the decision within the 56-day period required by law. The mast had been opposed by parents, staff and governors at the school.
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