Banjup battles telco

BANJUP residents fighting a mobile phone tower proposed for their semi-rural suburb say planning laws are unfairly weighted in favour of telcos and need updating.

Vodaphone wants to erect a 38-metre monopole tower at the rear of Neil and Miranda McCrudden’s property on Harper Road, Banjup, but has been knocked back by Cockburn council.

The facility would also include three 41.5-metre antennas.

Vodaphone has appealed the council’s decision in the State Administrative Tribunal, which took the unusual step of convening a hearing in the southern suburb this week.

The SAT representatives were greeted by almXWost 50 locals opposed to the tower, which organiser John Condon said blew him away as he’d only expected a handful would be able to make it.

“It was just to show the bloke from the SAT that locals are really serious about this; they don’t want a tower,” Mr Condon told the Herald.

• Banjup residents fighting a phone tower protest as the State Administrative Tribunal holds a makeshift hearing in the semi-rural suburb. Photo by Steve Grant

He says there’s a strong sense of community in Banjup, but acknowledges they face an uphill battle seeing off a giant telco.

“We’ve got a sneaky chance. If it goes against the telco, it would be the first time, although there was one that got knocked back because they wanted it on a heritage building,” he says.

Mr Condon says the residents are deeply unhappy about the state’s Telecommunications Infrastructure policy 5.2, which he says pretty much hands telcos the right to plonk towers anywhere, as long as it creates a continuous network.

There are some provisions to knock them back if they affect the visual amenity of an area, which is why Cockburn gave it the thumbs-down, but the policy also argues they shouldn’t even need planning approval in rural areas.

In the end, the SAT commissioner was unable to pick a side and reserved his decision.

The tower was a flashpoint during this month’s council elections, with mayoral candidate Lee-Anne Smith and Mr Condon copping a barrage of abuse from people who accused them of being nimbys holding up better mobile phone reception.

Mr Condon says he took it all in his stride: “I was there to deflect the heat from others.”

by STEVE GRANT

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