By Lawrence Machado
A large childcare centre, worried about the health hazards for their children and staff, are opposing Telstra’s proposed mobile tower at Glenhaven.
According to the DA lodged with The Hills Shire Council last December, Telstra wants to build a near 22m tall mobile phone base station at 2, Glenhaven Road, on the property of the Glenhaven Veterinary Hospital.
Telstra insists there are no health issues with the tower and has the backing of the Federal Liberal MP for Berowra, Julian Lesser, who says many residents have been asking for better mobile coverage.
However, the owners of the Kindalin child care centre at Glenhaven, Mark and Alison Warton, said the tower will be a mere 25m from their playground and the electromagnetic energy (EME) will endanger the children and staff.
The Kindalin centre, staffed by 30, caters to around 100 children daily.
“We were informed in early December by our landlord that a DA has been submitted to build the mobile tower,” Mr Wharton told the Hills To Hawkesbury Community News.
“The DA was lodged just before Christmas, which coincided with the long break. We are not against mobile towers but even the Department of Education prefers a mobile tower should not be located closer than 500m away.”
“Our federal MP Mr Leeser says he does not care where the tower goes and he needs to rethink this because children will be more affected than adults from the EME.”
Dr Gordon Heslop, who owns the veterinary centre, said he is aware of these concerns and had advised Telstra about the childcare centre.
“I share the concerns of the parents and staff of Kindalin centre,” Dr Heslop said. “I was assured the tower would be safe for all concerned; my wife and I both work at the site each day, and I would not do anything to endanger our health or anyone else’s.”
Dr Heslop said despite Telstra’s assurances, he said “other well qualified groups are amassing data that contradict Telstra’s….a well qualified telcom tower campaigner indicated these towers can be modified to shield local buildings and their occupants from electromagnetic radiation.”
Mr Leeser told the Hills to Hawkesbury Community News he supports “towers being built to address the enormous mobile blackspot issues in the electorate, including in Glenhaven and Dural”.
“Telecommunications issues are raised with me daily and I am concerned that a lack of coverage is a danger for the community in emergency situations,” he said.
“I’m not involved in deciding the location of this tower though. It’s a Telstra decision. Regarding their concerns, I would share them if health risks associated with EMR were backed up by science, but they are not. I am not an expert on this, but the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (APRANSA) is full of experts in this field and their job is to set the standards that ensure Australians are safe from radiation.”
State Liberal MP for Castle Hill Ray Williams believes the tower should not be built at this site. “I’m certainly not opposed to better telecommunications, however I believe the Telstra tower proposed next to Kindalin at Glenhaven is in the wrong place,” Mr Williams said.
“While Telstra will obviously dispute any harm to children from these towers, parents who have children attending the preschool will feel quite differently and perhaps remove their children from the facility, thereby impacting heavily on Kindalin.
I’m not saying no to the tower, just not in this location.”
A Hills Shire Council spokesperson said they are aware the telecommunications tower proposal, “is concerning for some residents”.
“So far, council has received more than 400 submissions on this application,” the spokesperson said. “As part of the assessment process, council is looking at what is permissible under the SEPP, as well as the Department of Education’s guidelines for telecommunications towers being located in close proximity to education facilities. This information will be given to the Local Planning Panel who will make a decision on this application.
“Residents will have an opportunity to voice their concerns at this meeting.”
For local resident, Margaret, the mobile tower is very welcome. “In my own house, I can only use my mobile in one place where I have a small patch of reception, or I have to go to the middle of my driveway,” she said. “I cannot really take calls, and while I can receive texts, sending responses is difficult. I have been disappointed by the opposition to this tower, as the arguments against it are wrong.
“Real people are influenced by bad telecommunications, when my late husband was unwell, having poor reception deeply impacted my ability to receive assistance; I support this proposed tower.”
Telstra’s Regional General Manager in NSW, Mike Marom said “current research indicates there are no established health effects from the low exposure to the RF EME from mobile phone base station antennas”.
“For this site, within 50 metres of the tower, the highest level of EME that will be emitted is 9.7 per cent of 100 per cent of the recommended public exposure limit,” said Mr Marom, adding that Telstra has been seeking a site here for a number of years. “At a distance of 100m, this figure has fallen to 2.1 per cent.”
Mr Marom said Telstra is committed to addressing people’s genuine concerns about the levels of EME that the station will emit.
Mr Lesser said he is organising a forum at which people can put their questions directly to ARPANSA.
Telstra held a community consultation session, headed by their CEO Andy Penn, on February 25, with Kindalin saying that this should have held before submitting the DA in the first place.
“We understand there are many opinions when it comes to new mobile infrastructure and we will consider all feedback,” Mr Marom said.