Bryanston community angered by lack of consultation in erection of MTN pole

Angered resident of St Audley Road, Kim Sturgeon and chairperson of the Bryanston East Community Forum Ian Tumiel stand next to the contractors as they install the new MTN pole at 91 St Audley Road. Sturgeon's car is parked beside the contractors in protest. Photo: Sarah Koning


Bryanston residents are up in arms about the lack of consultation with the community before an MTN pole was erected at 91 St Audley Road.

Residents said that MTN and City Power did not follow the correct ethical procedure before the pole was erected, including contacting residents who live in the vicinity. They claim the only information they received was a notice placed on a smaller cellular network tower disguised as a street light in March.

MTN signed a contract with City Power in 2014 to use their light pole infrastructure to upgrade cell phone and broadband network coverage in the city.

Contractors install the new MTN pole at 91 St Audley Road, Bryanston, on 27 June. Kim Sturgeon’s car is parked to the right of the site in protest. Photo: Sarah Koning

On 27 July, angered resident of 72 St Audley Road, Kim Sturgeon, parked her car next to men installing the new pole and called Sandton Chronicle to the scene.

“I am fed up of being bullied. I told them they had no authorisation to do this and they just carried on,” said Sturgeon.

When she requested proof of authorisation from the company installing the pole, they produced a way leave form from the JRA approving the installation.

“I can feel it in the earth when the power is on. The jury is still out on the health risks involved. It feels like I had no choice about having the pole installed. There has been a lack of consultation and due process and as a resident, I surely have some rights.”

The new MTN pole at 91 St Audley Road, Bryanston. Residents are angered by the lack of consultation with residents before the pole was erected. Photo: Sarah Koning

Chairperson of the Bryanston East Community Forum Ian Tumiel, who was also on the scene, said his greatest concern was the lack of community consultation. “We were assured by the ward councillor that this pole was not signed off and here they are installing it,” said Tumiel.

The spokesperson for City Power, Virgil James said they created awareness by consulting regional directors of the City of Joburg in their forums. He also said that ward councillors were engaged and registered mail was sent or direct contact was made with residents of the properties adjacent to the pole sites.

The letter notifying the community about the installation of the MTN pole in St Audley Road, Bryanston. Photo: Sarah Koning

The resident of the property situated at 91 St Audley Road, Heather Fellingham, wrote to ward councillor Vincent Earp objecting to the installation of the pole. She said she knows of at least one other member of the community who objected in writing to the erection of the pole, but this failed to halt the process.

“We have so many of these poles in the area and they are intensifying the electromagnetic radiation that we are subject to. Let’s face it, they turn out high levels of radiation, but only time will tell the damage it will cause,” said Fellingham.

Both Sturgeon and Fellingham did not receive letters informing them of the installation.

Ward councillor Vincent Earp said, “Cellular companies are supposed to engage with objectors. However, this does not stop an installation unless there is a reason they believe to be a compelling and legitimate concern. I support my residents’ concerns.

Angered Bryanston resident Kim Sturgeon and chairman of the Bryanston East Community Forum Ian Tumiel are upset about the installation of an MTN pole at 91 St Audley Road. Photo: Sarah Koning

“While technology is advancing all the time, residents should still be allowed a choice. Something that affects residents across the entire City should have led to a public consultation process being followed prior to contracts being signed. Residents sending in objections should have their concerns addressed. This is big business and there is a lot of money to be made for those cellular companies that have a stable network.”

James acknowledged that City Power uses the site of the pole as a source of revenue because cellular providers pay rent for use of the site.

MTN South Africa responded to Sandton Chronicle’s queries saying that in 2017 MTN extended the requirements of City power to include letters of consultation with surrounding property owners and contact with ward councillors.

MTN and City Power said there were no health concerns caused by these antennas.

MTN said that the original pole was installed in 2010 and in March 2017 a public participation process was undertaken, resulting in the pole moving 4 meters to its current location. “The Ward Councilor indicated that there were community objections but provided no details. Other direct objections were received in April 2017 and they raised electro magnetic field and health related concerns as well as property devaluation which were answered.

On 25 March 2017 City Power approved the site. In June 2017, the pole was moved and reintegration was done on 26 July 2017.”

Visit the Sandton Chronicle Facebook page to share your concerns on this issue.

Sarah Koning

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