A proposal for a 20-metre-tall temporary mobile phone tower in the historic inner city suburb of Reid has been thrown out by the ACT Planning and Land Authority on heritage grounds, and for being too imposing and out of character for the area.
The decision was welcomed by the ACT National Trust, which had opposed the proposal.
Optus had wanted to install the tower for about 12 months while it found a new permanent site to replace its facility at Customs House on Constitution Avenue, which it plans to decommission.
The temporary tower was to be sited in a corner of Reid Park near the cricket nets to ensure that Optus customers in the area are not without mobile phone services while a new permanent facility is sought.
The telco said that without the proposed temporary tower, customers may not be able to connect to the mobile network, calls may drop out, and they may experience reduced or no data speeds, longer download times and poor network performance at busy times of the day.
However, opponents, including the ACT National Trust, argued that the tower would be inconsistent with the heritage character and status of the area, incompatible with the objectives of the Reid heritage precinct and would affect the visual environment and quality of the landscape.
The National Trust said the tower would be detrimental to the precinct’s longevity, overall character and heritage.
“The precinct exemplifies Canberra’s early planning influences stemming from the early 20th Century’s Garden City and City Beautiful movements … and is one of the few remaining areas within Canberra that aspires to preserve this unique character,” the Trust said in its submission.
It also had doubts about whether it would be temporary.
The planning authority agreed that the tower would be out of place.
“The proposed structure, with its height and character, is not sympathetic to the surrounding single-storey, pitched roof residential dwellings and the landscaped streetscape,” the decision said.
“The proposal dominates the surrounding character and does not compliment the heritage value of the area.”
It also said the tower would be visually distracting to the adjoining main streets and possibly to a public place of significance, the Australian War Memorial.
The ACT Heritage Council advised the planning authority that the proposal would diminish the heritage significance of the area and could not support the application.
The National Trust said it was delighted with the decision to reject the application.
“We had argued in our submission to the Authority that the proposed placement of the telephone tower in this location did not respect the important heritage values of this very early and well-preserved Canberra suburb,” the Trust said.
“It is also gratifying that the ACT Heritage Council has come to a similar conclusion.
“One of Canberra’s great attractions to residents and visitors alike is the continued visibility of its ‘Garden City’ values. This decision shows that these values remain important and can and should be properly addressed in the city’s planning processes.”
An Optus spokesperson said that since the development application decision Optus had identified several alternative options for a permanent facility.