Sydney Council phone tower forum

Representatives fromlcoal government areas throughout Sydney gathered to consider the implications of new state and federal rgulations and new telecommunicatins technologies.

A federal Code of Practice and a new federal standard for radiofrequency exposure are about to be released and a state environmental planning policy (SEPP) has been in the process of development by the NSW Department of Urban Affairs and Planning (DUAP) for eighteen months. At the same time as regulations are evolving, changes are taking place in communications technology which will require smaller antennas in smaller cells scattered more liberally throughout the community. All of these changes are likely to impact significantly on the way in which councils consider and deal with applications from carriers for new mobile phone base stations.

In anticipation of these changes, a forum on Planning Issues relating to Mobile Phone Towers was held at Burwood Council on October 25th. Organised jointly by Sutherland Shire and Burwood Councils, the Forum attracted representatives from most councils in Sydney, with mayors, councillors, departmental managers and planners all in attendance.

The presentations began with Richard Aberline, Manager of Sutherland Shire Council’s Environmental Planning Department, outlining the legislative background to the present regulatory situation in NSW. John Lincoln, EMRAA’s representative on the ARPANSA working group that is developing the new RF standard, explained the status of the new standard and EMRAA’s reservations about its ability to protect public health. EMRAA’s Lyn McLean outlined the reasons underlying community concern about the installation of mobile phone towers and the development of the ACIF Code for the Deployment of Radiocommunications Infrastructure that will significantly change the way carriers interact with councils.

Erika Roka, Strategic Planner for Blacktown Council discussed her council’s DCP—its original form, its legislative effectiveness and its recent revision. Dr Garry Smith, Principal Environmental Scientist from Sutherland Shire Council, described the rationale for and success of Sutherland’s policy to date and explained that it was shortly to be revised.

The discussion session was an opportunity for councils to share their experiences and their concerns. Several participants expressed dissatisfaction with the Low Impact Determination which discriminated against mobile phone towers on the basis of height rather than emissions. The need for councils to understand and respond to the new ACIF Code (see page 4) was discussed. There was considerable support for the idea of developing a generic planning document for telecommunications.

An afternoon workshop focused on how councils could best deal with a number of important siting considerations such as colocation.

The outcome of the meeting was a decision to establish a telecommunications working group to develop a generic planning document. A number of attendees indicated their willingness to be part of the on-going process and a follow-up meeting has been organised for December 4th.

EMRAA News Dec 2001, Vol 6 No 4