Friday, March 25, 2011

telecommunications towers get the thumbs down

report from the roundtable - 22 mar

At this week's council meeting we had to consider three applications for telecommunications towers, two from Telstra and one from Optus.

The two Telstra ones were very similar, in both cases the ridgetop locations in Healesville and Seville were a key concern in considering the applications.

I moved the motion to refuse the application in Healesville. In speaking to the motion I talked about the importance of our scenic and iconic landscapes and the importance of our tourism industry.

Cornish Hill, the proposed location of the tower in Healesville, is in a prominent position, one of the gateway peaks which frames the township. The proposed tower would be visually prominent and an intrusion on the landscape, impacting on viewlines from many angles.

It is a repeat application, back in 2000 council refused a very similar application, nothing has changed, time has past and our tourism industry is even more important now than it was then.

At 50 metres from the nearest house, it is too close and is contrary to council's policy on telecommunications facilities.

It would be located in a Green Wedge A Zone, a zone that is important in providing a buffer and transition between more urban and rural properties. At 24 metres high, the tower would protrude 7 metres above the treeline.

Our ridgelines are not negotiable, I'd like to see applications council could support, telecommunications are important but it seems Telstra is not willing to go for less prominent locations due to the cost (something they confirmed to council at a briefing).

I'm pleased to say council unanimously supported the refusal for this tower in Healesville.
(Cr's McRae and Cox absent due to a declared conflict of interest)

The tower in Seville was very similar in circumstance, located on a prominent ridgeline, the visual amenity impacts mirrored those of tower proposed for Healesville, however this came with the addition of a 'cypress shroud' to disguise the pole.

In speaking to this motion I highlighted the fact that an almost identical application had come to council in 2009, was refused by council, a decision that was then upheld by VCAT.

The Cypress Shroud was awful proposition, on a pole with a proposed height of 25 metres, this highly engineered leafy rocket or giant pipecleaner would protrude 7 metres about the tree line and in supplied mock ups looked ridiculous.

What we need to see from Telstra is applications for smaller facilities in greater numbers to ensure that our landscapes are protected from these visual intrusions.

Our vistas and views are our stock in trade and tourists flock to our region for the Yarra Valley experience. I'm not against telecommunications but I urge Telstra to give us applications we can support.

Councillors voted unanimously to refuse this application.
(Cr Cox absent due to a declared conflict of interest)

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