Vineyard Town residents oppose cell tower construction
RESIDENTS OF Vineyard Town in Kingston are voicing strong opposition to plans by telecommunications company Digicel to erect a cell tower in their community, accusing the entity of not consulting them before making this decision.
Ryan Richardson, a resident of Diana Drive in the community, told The Gleaner that he was not even aware that a cell tower was going to be constructed so close to his home.
“Being that it is going to be erected so close to the post office, if it’s even some flyers they could have print out and distribute,” he said. “The last time there was the hullabaloo about cell towers, I did some research, and there are some negative effects of radiation from cell towers to humans, so I am not sure why they could carry it so close when there are the hills right there.”
Another resident, who gave her name only as Janette, said she also did not know about the planned construction. Like Richardson, she is also nervous about the possible health implications of having the structure close to her home.
“I think it is a health hazard, based on all my readings. I don’t even sleep with my cell phone in the same room because of certain cancers and how they link it to cellphones. That tower really is not comforting right now,” she said.
According to the American Cancer Society, there is no strong evidence to suggest that exposure to radio frequency (RF) waves from cell phone towers causes any noticeable health effects. But the agency notes that this does not mean that the RF waves from cell phone towers have been proven to be absolutely safe.
It stated that more research is needed to clarify this and ascertain any possible long-term effects.
Marlon Bell, a resident of Antrim Road in the community, also believes the cell tower should be located in the hills surrounding the community.
“You nuh think if dem put it up in the hills it woulda have more [coverage]? Why dem a put it inna di square?” questioned Bell. “Sometimes you wonder how di people dem come by dem decisions ‘cause yuh see so much different options better weh dem can take.”
But another resident argued that cell towers are all over the city and that citizens have been living and moving among them for a long time.
“Dem (cell towers) deh everywhere, y’know. A nuff people pass dem and think it’s a tree until dem see di likkle red light inna it. What yuh don’t know won’t hurt you,” he contended.
Up to press time last night, Digicel had not responded to questions sent by The Gleaner last week.
However, in a letter dated December 8, 2022, the telecoms company sought to assure residents that it was taking their concerns seriously.
The missive was in response to one dispatched by some residents, who expressed concern about possible health hazards with a cell tower in a residential area.
Digicel stated that a survey had been conducted with residents in the vicinity of 63A Deanery Road, where the cell tower is to be erected, in January last year. It stated that 36 out of 42 residents surveyed said that they had no objection to the construction of the cell tower. Additionally, it told the residents that a notice of the construction had also been posted at the Vineyard Town Post Office in February.
“Having satisfied all the necessary requirements, our application to construct the cell tower was subsequently approved by the relevant authorities,” it further stated, while indicating its desire to further engage residents about their concerns as the company enters the planning stages.
Meanwhile, Vineyard Town division Councillor Andrew Swaby highlighted the residents’ concerns at a meeting of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) earlier this month. He said that many residents did not know that an application had been made to construct a cell tower in their community until they were asked to give input in a survey.
He said that residents claimed that they were asked to conduct the survey with a pencil while signing the forms with a pen.
The councillor believes the KSAMC should take responsibility for conducting these surveys.
“You can’t put the onus on the applicant for the survey to be done. The KSAMC should be supervising it. They would ensure that persons right around where the proposed cell tower would be who are most affected will have a say in it,” he told The Gleaner.
He also argued that of a sample size of 100 people who are currently required to be interviewed, at least 25 per cent of these individuals in the community must live within the immediate vicinity of the proposed site.
Applications for cell towers are processed by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), falling under the Town and Country Planning Authority. Additionally, pre-application discussions and inspections should be carried out between the operators and schools, residential groups, the relevant planning authorities, the NEPA, the authorities responsible for roads, and any other relevant body. The telecommunication operators should also discuss any proposals for their system with the local planning authority for the respective area.
“There is a view outside here where residents believe if they object, that is the end-all … . We should be educated enough to know if it’s a national security issue, schools are nearby. That is the stuff we need to know. We should have a public education about it, ” said Swaby.