Cape Town - Is it a tree, is it a cellphone mast? If the City of Cape Town moves ahead with a proposal to make cellphone towers blend in with the natural environment, you may have to look twice before being able to tell.
“The fact is that many people view bare cellphone towers and masts as ugly and an intrusion into their neighbourhoods,” said James Vos, chairman of the De Grendel subcouncil. They also affected an area’s property values.
He said cellphone companies should be compelled to disguise their cell sites in residential areas by making them look like trees, chimneys, church towers or flag poles.
According to the city’s telecommunication infrastructure policy, measures must be considered to minimise the proliferation of base stations in the city and to reduce “visual clutter”.
But in terms of the National Environmental Management Act of 2010, the erection of cellphone masts no taller than 15m is no longer considered a listed activity and no environmental authorisation is needed.
Cellphone companies also do not need to apply for special zoning rights to erect cell sites because, under the Land Use Planning Ordinance, rooftop and freestanding telecommunication mast base stations are permitted.
Vos said more needed to be done to prevent cellphone masts from “tarnishing” residential areas.
His research revealed that many cellphone companies were willing to camouflage their cellphone towers and masts, but that not enough was being done to encourage them to do so.
“There are many providers that offer these services as part of the normal tower installation and maintenance service.” - Cape Argus