CRAIGIE residents have won their latest fight with Optus over a telecommunications tower proposed at Camberwarra Park but it may not be over yet.
Joondalup councillors at last night’s meeting unanimously refused the tower, which would be installed next to the tennis courts and toilet block and about 23m from the nearest residential property.
The decision reaffirmed the council’s previous unanimous refusal in May when Optus proposed a 31.75m tower to increase mobile phone and data download coverage in Craigie and Padbury.
At the time, residents raised concerns of the visual impact and size of the tower, restricting children’s access to the playground, it’s proximity to Craigie Heights Primary School and electromagnetic emissions.
Optus appealed the council’s refusal at the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) and through this process, the proposal was revised and the council was invited to reconsider its decision.
The revised proposal included reducing the total height to 25m and providing a visual impact assessment that stated the tower would have a small impact in some locations but the “character of the landscape has the ability to accommodate the change”.
The City engaged an external consultant to review the visual impact assessment and officers recommended the revised proposal be conditionally approved.
At last week’s council briefing, residents expressed their disappointment to be “back in this position”.
“A lot of the park is already taken up by a drainage site and now we’re going to lose more,” Robert Edwards said.
“It will be a visual eyesore.
“There are plenty of other options and areas for the tower that are not backing into residents’ gardens.”
Speaking on behalf of Optus, Planning Solutions director Ben Doyle said they had looked at alternative sites in the park and surrounding area but none were feasible.
He said the reduced height of the tower would have a “minor impact on the surrounding area, taking into account the topography of the site and the tree canopy”.
About 95 people then attended a community meeting at the park on Sunday morning morning with Joondalup councillors Christopher May, Russell Poliwka and Mike Norman attending to hear residents’ concerns.
With a packed gallery of concerned residents last night, Mayor Albert Jacob moved an alternative motion to refuse Optus’s revised proposal.
He said Optus had not provided adequate information as to why as new tower was required and submissions from the community were “overwhelmingly opposed”.
He said it was also not clear why Optus required a stand-alone tower and could not co-locate with another telecommunications provider at an existing tower.
This was also the basis for his motion to request the chief executive engage with the WA Local Government Association and seek its help to engage with the telecommunications industry to “identify a more co-ordinated approach in identifying suitable locations for these facilities”.
Though Cr Mike Norman agreed with the refusal, he said he was concerned after lawyers advised they would have a small chance to successfully defend the decision at SAT, with a hearing “likely to cost more than $30,000”.
Mr Jacob agreed the council did “not have the legal power” but said it did “have the influence”.
“Let’s use this to support the local community,” he said.
A SAT directions hearing has been scheduled for November 30, where it is expected Optus will proceed to a full hearing.