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Residents voice concerns over tower for Heathcote

A planned 40m National Broadband Network tower proposed for Heathcote has attracted some opposition from residents.

BARBARA SUNGAILA February 21, 2013 4:23am

For the second time in less than a month, a group of district residents have expressed concerns about a proposed National Broadband Network tower.

This time, residents are worried about a planned 40m tower in Heathcote.

The Travers Lane property was the site of a mediation meeting last Friday between objectors, representatives from the City of Greater Bendigo and representatives from telecommunications and ICT provider Visionstream, which is applying for a permit to build the tower.

It is the second meeting in the district between NBN providers, a council and disgruntled residents, following on from one at Toolleen where a proposed tower on Mt Camel was discussed at the end of January.

The council has received four objections to the Heathcote proposal, all from immediate neighbours.

Objectors were mainly concerned about the appearance of the tower.

‘‘What we came here for is going and we can’t stop it,’’ neighbour Kristen Burton said.

‘‘We bought our block of land as, I suppose, a haven from the world and we’ve lived there for 27 years.’’

‘‘It’ll be an eyesore,’’ neighbour Peter Eichhorn said.

However, Visionstream’s Steven Bishop believed the visual impact would be minimal.

He said the dense tree canopy would shield neighbours from seeing the entire tower.

City of Greater Bendigo town planner Peter O’Brien said it was important to understand the tower was not just a stand-alone facility but part of a broader network and there were several related applications before council.

Visionstream’s Steven Bishop and Greg Aitken explained the function of the tower, its role in the network and the need for clear ‘‘lines of sight’’ between towers.

‘‘Towers are generally about 10km apart,’’ Mr Aitken said.

This tower would link back to another at Tooborac.

Neighbour Dave Burton asked about the site’s selection.

‘‘Nobody here actually knows anything about that process,’’ he said.

Mr Bishop explained that an area was firstly identified by the number of dwellings, then a more detailed topographic search was made to locate the most suitable accessible site for a tower and complex computer modelling was undertaken to make sure that lines of sight were clear.

The need for faster internet was questioned by those at the meeting.

‘‘We’ve got internet now, why do we need faster internet?’’ Mr Eichhorn said.

‘‘We don’t, well I don’t. There’s neighbours here that can download quickly enough. Why do you need any quicker than that?’’

Some objectors were worried about the risks of electromagnetic radiation.

Mr Bishop said the maximum predicted level of electromagnetic radiation at ground level will be less than 0.021 per cent of the maximum allowable.

Site owner Malcolm Tubb said he had been reassured by National Broadband Network willingness to alter the agreement to include a clause about electromagnetic radiation.

‘‘The rental is an attraction, but quite honestly, if there really was any harm and we were able to stop it then I would be grateful about that because I would be the first person to be harmed by it,’’ he said.

Mr Tubb was also unconcerned about the look of the tower.

‘‘We’ve got a great big power pole on the other side of the yard where the best view is and it’s part of technology, like wind power,’’ he said.

City of Greater Bendigo councillor Rod Campbell said these types of propositions were always vexing.

‘‘You set the balance of interests if you like, the challenge of whether we should have better communication or better environment,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s the balances that are very hard to get.’’

A date has yet to set for the matter to go before council.

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