A DRAFT policy on the most appropriate placement of telecommunications infrastructure within the Coffs Harbour LGA will be prepared by Coffs Harbour City Council, following Council debate last month over a proposal to install an Optus telecommunications tower on Stadium Drive near local schools, Coffs Harbour TAFE and Southern Cross University.
Cr Tegan Swan made a notice of motion at Council’s meeting on 12 November for Council to prepare a draft policy on the appropriate provision of telecommunications infrastructure in the Coffs Harbour Local Government Area.
“This is an attempt to have an overarching policy and strategic direction that allows us to have guidelines and set a tone for the expectation that we have for our community around this infrastructure,” Cr Swan said.
“An increasing number of development applications are coming before council for determination regarding telecommunications infrastructure.
“There is significant community interest in the placement of this infrastructure given the potential impact it has on the surrounding environment.”
Cr Swan said the new policy was needed, but that Council should also remember that these telecommunications facilities are “providing a service to us”.
“It is something that is needed, but there is a vast majority of expectations around where it should go, what it should do,” Cr Swan said.
“By providing options for inclusion in local planning and strategic documents, council are able to best represent the expectations of the community when these types of development applications are submitted for consideration.
“If we can come from a place where we have a standard that we expect for our community, and that’s in line with what they (the community) have told us, then we’re in a better place to avoid having to deal with it, ongoing.”
Mayor Denise Knight said the new policy would be for the councillors, to make better informed decisions.
Cr George Cecato, however, questioned the use of a new policy.
“They really can ignore a policy if they wanted to,” Cr Cecato said.
“If we do a policy are we going to really enforce it?”
Council’s Sustainable Communities director Chris Chapman said Council didn’t have a specific planning policy around telecom structures, and said the main type of infrastructure that came before Council for consent was monopole structures in greenfield sites or urban areas.
“There are planning controls around height and all those sort of things,” Mr Chapman said.
“Council can certainly have a policy that can regulate that type of infrastructure.”
Councillors voted unanimously for Council to prepare a draft policy on the appropriate provision of telecommunications infrastructure in the Coffs Harbour Local Government Area including examples of best practice outcomes for this type of telecommunication infrastructure as a guide, relevance to previous consultation and input from community and stakeholders, and recommend changes and amendments to all relevant local planning policies and strategic documents.
By Emma DARBIN