People power topples tower bid

By Jessica Micallef

A planning permit to build a 33.3-metre telecommunications tower in Woodend has been rejected by Macedon Ranges council.

In a unanimous decision, councillors last week refused the plan by Catalyst One to build a telecommunications facility at 59c High Street.

The permit proposed erection of a 33.3-metre Optus monopole with associated equipment and removing native vegetation.

The facility was proposed as part of the Regional Rail Connectivity Project to improve mobile coverage for train passengers and Woodend residents and was partly funded by the state government.

A petition, outlining concerns about the proposal and signed by about 300 residents, was presented to the council at its July meeting.

Woodend resident Cassandra Simmons said she was thrilled that the council stood behind residents.

“Sometimes it’s very hard when you have a corporation such as Optus, ploughing through Victoria and indeed Australia,” she said.

“There’s no doubt that this area needs to be kept up to date with connectivity, but their [Optus’] job is to not look after our beautiful little quaint, 130-year-old town. That’s what the council has done, they have looked after us.”

Ms Simmons said the tower would have had a negative visual impact on Woodend.

“Woodend is the gateway to the Macedon Ranges,” she said.

“For people to be arriving here by train at our beautifully restored little railway station, it would be an awful shame if that [the pole] was the first thing they would see.”

Ms Simmons said the petition was started in May, prior to the Optus application being lodged with council.

“It was a pre-emptive measure on our part,” she said.

“There was a fairly overwhelming response.

“Nobody has denied that there is a need for a telecommunications tower, however to place it in the heart of the town is not appropriate.

“It can be placed one kilometre or two kilometres away and it will be just as effective and it will not be in amongst the charm of this town.”