But two weeks ago the residents’ tranquil lives were thrown into disarray after houses on the north side of the street received a letter from Byron Shire Council informing them of a development application from Optus to erect a 20-metre high telecommunications tower directly behind their properties.
“We were just absolutely shocked that it could even be allowed to get to that stage,” said Laurel Avenue resident Ross Devine, “that there could be any prospect of it so close to our houses.”
The residents’ concerns about the tower are both about the possible risks to health and the visual impact.
“Many local councils adopt a cautionary approach to the installation of these towers,” said Ross.
“In 1997 the NSW Minister for Education recommended that none of these towers be installed within a 500 metre radius of a school, yet St John’s Primary School is within a 300 metre radius, and many young children and retirees live within the 500 metre radius.”
The tower will emit electromagnetic radiation (EMR) 24 hours a day, something that is of much concern to residents due to the lack of scientific evidence that there is no harmful effect from continuous EMR.
“In the past they said asbestos and tobacco were harmless,” said Sara Devine. “We’ve only had mobile phones for 15 years, so how can they be certain about the effects of EMR? They should definitely take a policy of caution.”
All the parents of young children expressed desperate worries about their future should the DA be approved.
“We moved here four years ago to start a family,” said Sara, cradling nine-month old Indigo, “but now we’re really concerned about a health risk for our daughter and for any future children we may have – it would be so sad to have to move out.”
Residents were also concerned about the visual impact of a tall tower that will be highly visible not only from Laurel Avenue but also from other parts of Mullumbimby such as the entrance to town at Tony Carsburg’s and from St John’s Primary School, and they allege that the DA was intentionally misleading in many of its claims and the photos included.
“They say the tower is hidden behind a grove of dead trees,” said Ross, “but since the camphor laurels in question are poisoned or dying, the coverage they afford can only decrease, so the visual impact will be quite significant, something that will definitely spoil our rural view.”
The visual impact and the possible health risk also add up to another concern for nearby residents.
“We face devaluation of our properties,” said Bruce Johnson.
Residents are mobilising to inform the wider community about a DA that will impact on many more people besides the residents on adjoining properties who received notification.
“Mullumbimby community has not been consulted in any way, shape or form,” said Ross, “but we’ve been really pleased at how everybody has mobilised and done lots of research, to get the information out there to the community.”
Those wishing to object to the DA are urged to contact the council’s general manager at email@example.com or PO Box 219 Mullumbimby 2482 or hand-deliver, quoting DA No. 2009.300.1 and Parcel Number 12480.
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