A chaotic public meeting has ended with a win for Gateshead residents after plans for a mobile phone tower on Bulls Garden Road were unexpectedly knocked on the head.
An emotionally-charged meeting between residents, Optus representative Howard Game, and Lake Macquarie councillors and staff had been going for 45 minutes on Thursday when landowner Michael Constantine emerged to tell the crowd he had called off his lease agreement with the telco.
Mr Constantine said his solicitor sent a letter to Optus on Wednesday informing the company that the deal, which would have earned him $15,000 in rent a year, was off.
“They’ve been holding onto the lease but they haven’t executed the lease,” he told The Herald after he dropped the bombshell that ended the meeting.
“They haven’t sent us a copy and no money has changed hands. This has been ongoing since late 2015 – it is now 2017.”
Mr Constantine said he had seen signs in the area protesting plans for the 37m high tower.
“I thought, I’m not going to be a part of this for the lousy $15,000 rental,” he said.
“I feel bad for [the residents] and I’m sorry that I ever entered into this initially. I didn’t realise, in this position, it would cause such a fuss.”
Several residents approached Mr Constantine in tears, embraced him and thanked him after he addressed the meeting.
Possible health effects and the impact on visual amenity were among the wide range of concerns many residents had about plans for the tower.
Angela Fischer, who lives near the site, said she and her neighbours couldn’t have hoped for a better result.
“I’m absolutely floored,” she said.
“The landowner has obviously seen the level of community objection, unlike the proponent, and has obviously made a decision that he doesn’t want to upset the local residents.
“This tower [would have been] mere metres from the residential development. Even though it seems like it’s not going to occur here, it will occur in a neighbourhood... sometime soon.”
In a statement to The Herald on Thursday evening, an Optus spokesperson said the telco would continue to work with Mr Constantine, council and the community on the location of the tower.
“Optus understands the local community’s concern about Electro Magnetic Emissions and can assure residents that we rely on the expert advice of national and international health authorities, including the World Health Organisation, to conduct assessments of the health and safety impact of our mobile towers,” she said.
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