By Derek Schlennstedt
Yarra Ranges Council and residents in Wesburn have spoken.
At the council meeting on 14 August it was agreed that an application to build an NBN telecommunications tower in Wesburn would not go ahead.
Councillors refused the application on the basis that it would be an eyesore andbwould provide less-than-adequate technology for the area.
Planning consultant David Quelch represented 30 objectors to the application and spoke about its significant impact on the Yarra Valley’s visual landscape.
“The proposed telecommunication facility will be highly visible from many vantage points, including properties along Settlement Road, Warburton Highway, Wares Road, Railway Road and the Warburton trail,” he said.
“The tower is located on a ridge on high ground…combined with a 45 metre height this achieves a height of 183 metres above sea level, so it’s quite imposing.”
According to an NBN report, the monopole would connect 840 people in more than 300 premises in the Wesburn area.
Speaking in favour of the application, Ericcson Telecommunications Company spokesman Pat Evans said the tower had met all the council’s stringent laws.
“Contrary to suggestion by the objectors in relation to quality of service, there is a clear deficiency of broadband across Wesburn, parts of Millgrove and Yarra Junction,” he said.
“In relation to visual impact we note the council officers’ observation in the report that the site is set back a sufficient distance from residential land users.
“Just to ensure this proposal is not framed as being an outlier…I want to just point out that the proposal and set-back distance to dwellings is quite similar and reasonable in context of other proposals recently approved by the Shire of Yarra Ranges, which ranges from 75 metres to 130.”
Mr Evans was pressed to answer questions on the viability of a wireless network in Wesburn, and Cr Tim Heenan was particularly wary about the photos provided in the report.
Cr Heenan put forward an alternate motion to refuse the application, based on unacceptable visual impact.
“I’ve got grave concerns of the enormity of this particular monopole,” he said.
“We have to take a lot more things into consideration these days than just the supposed need of a particular amount of people in a particular area.
“People that live up in this area obviously are concerned about what they are going to see but more so the future of another one, and another one.”
Cr Mike Clarke also spoke about the feasibility of a fixed wireless network, and suggested that a fibre to the node network would be more appropriate.
“There’s no doubt that a 45 metre tower is going to far exceed any tree coverage that you might wish to have in the area,” he said.
“This wireless technology is line-of-sight technology and only has a 2 kilometre radius.
“The logical place you could put it is in the middle of a wide area and not smack up against a residential community as they can be far better serviced by fibre to the node technology.
“I would like this case to go back to NBN to select the appropriate technology for this area.”
According to the council report, the monopole would be situated on 20 Settlement Road, more than 100 metres away from the closest residence.