A LANDOWNER who told overjoyed Whitebridge residents he would scrap a lease for a controversial mobile phone tower has apparently been unable to deliver, as Lake Macquarie council approved the tower on Monday.
Councillors voted seven to four in favour of plans for the 37-metre tower on Bulls Garden Road, Gateshead, after an emotional campaign waged by Whitebridge residents who say it will be ugly and produce electromagnetic emissions.
Those in the majority, including mayor Kay Fraser, said they had to consider “the whole community” and evidence which, they said, doesn’t support claims that the tower will endanger residents’ health.
Residents against the tower cheered and hugged Michael Constantine at a site inspection earlier this month when he announced that his lawyer had informed Optus their $15,000-a-year deal to lease his land was off.
But in a memo sent to councillors and seen by the Newcastle Herald, a senior staff member advised that the application by service provider Visionstream for Optus and Vodafone had been lodged “with valid owner’s consent”.
The council hadn’t received anything in writing from Mr Constantine to indicate otherwise, said the memo.
“Further, when I spoke with Mr Constantine the day after the… site inspection he requested that council proceed to determine the application, acknowledging that determination would either be by way of approval or refusal,” the staff member said.
“Council has before it a valid development application and a determination still needs to be made by councillors.”
Mr Constantine objected to the description of him “requesting that council proceed” with the application, telling the Herald “I said I can’t stop it going before them”.
He also disputed the process around the lease, which he said he still hasn’t seen.
“There’s a legal procedure involved in terminating these leases,” he said.
“We can’t stop anything, except to go along with the legal procedure.”
Mr Constantine said he regretted entering the deal, and had changed his mind about the suitability of the tower on his light industrial-zoned land near houses.
But as things stand the tower will be built, to the dismay of some residents and councillors.
Labor councillor Barney Langford declared at the start of Monday’s council meeting that he lives near the proposed site, and said the debate was “not a case of NIMBY [not in my backyard], but a case of we should find a more appropriate backyard”.
Cr Langford has advocated for the tower to be built instead in Bennetts Green.
Angela Fischer, a Whitebridge resident, said “there’s no doubt that this proposed facility is a stain on the horizon”.
The tower will improve voice and data services to Optus and Vodafone customers, council staff have said, but Visionstream’s development application was called before the elected council rather than determined under delegated authority.
Council staff recommended approving the tower.