The continuing battle between broadband provider iBurst and disgruntled Craigavon residents about the erection of a 25m tower in Fourways Memorial shows no signs of dissipating. Both sides have threatened legal action, and it may turn out to be a matter that only the court can settle.
Meetings missed and cancelled
iBurst has recently stated that it considers the matter closed after no one from the ‘Craigavon Task Force’ attended a meeting, scheduled by iBurst on 30 November, to discuss their health concerns and hand over medical proof of health problems which residents claimed were caused by the iBurst tower. iBurst CEO Jannie van Zyl said that the Craigavon residents’ “last minute attempt on the 30th of November (the day of the meeting) to postpone the meeting was not acceptable.”
Van Zyl added that “after the previous meeting on the 16th of November, the continuous refusal to engage with iBurst led to a suspicion that there is no intent to engage. I can therefore come to no other conclusion than that there was no intention from Craigavon residents to resolve this matter and iBurst now considers this matter closed.”
Bismarck Olivier from the legal firm Bezuidenhout, Van Zyl and Associates, who represents the Craigavon residents, however says that the Craigavon residents were keen to meet with iBurst to resolve the issue without the need to go the legal route, and suggested a meeting date of Wednesday 2 December. This meeting was later cancelled because iBurst indicated that it would not attend the meeting.
Van Zyl in turn retorted that iBurst had agreed to attend the 2 December meeting if they received physical copies of any proof [of health concerns] by noon that day. Since nothing was delivered, iBurst decided not to attend the meeting.
“From their correspondence and conversations with iBurst this afternoon it seems they are not able to hand over any kind of proof at the meeting either. This is most likely the same reason why they did not show up on Monday,” said Van Zyl. “We can only take this as an open admission that no such proof ever existed and that all the claims of proof was just a ruse. This would explain their refusal to give us any details of any kind, including their names and addresses.”
Only the beginning
While iBurst considers the matter closed, Olivier said that there is no talk of abandoning the action against iBurst and that the recent activity surrounding the issue is ‘only the beginning’.
Up to now claims from some residents that the tower has had adverse health effects on residents living close to the site has dominated media reports and online discussions, but according to Olivier anyone who thinks that their legal case is based only on health issues is badly mistaken.
Olivier said that he doubts that any local medical practitioner will be able to accurately say that certain health symptoms – which affected 47 residents according to Olivier – are caused by radiation from the iBurst tower. Olivier however made it clear that their case is not built only on health concerns, but rather various other aspects related to the mast, including the public participation and environmental approval processes which they are confident is flawed.
Van Zyl however said that iBurst appointed an independent and accredited EIA consultant and that the correct procedures were followed – including notifying the adjacent property owners and publishing notices in the press and on the site itself.
“A number of objections were in fact received from residents and other interested parties, including from some of those who now claim they were never informed, and these were handled during the EIA process. GDACE, who oversee the EIA process, issued the final approval for the tower in October 2008. Planning and construction started some time later and the tower was completed in August 2009,” said van Zyl. “GDACE issued the certificate (called an ROD) in August 2008 indicating they were comfortable all processes and procedures were followed.”
Van Zyl further said that a number of residents now claim they were never informed, but that some of them received hand written notes and registered letters regarding the matter. “An adjacent resident also claims he was never informed, yet he was one of the people who originally lodged an objection. From this it is clear the residents originally had no objections or any objections offered at the time were correctly handled,” said Van Zyl.
Legal battle on the cards
Olivier said that they are currently collecting information and documentation needed to proceed with the case, and that not much more can be said at this stage as the matter is ‘sub judice’.
iBurst retorted, saying that it will definitely fight any legal action related to the Craigavon tower and that it is further reserving its legal rights related to what it describes as ‘defamatory statements made by the Craigavon Task Force’.
“iBurst therefore believe they have no legal case against this tower. As a matter of fact the residents have been threatening legal action for months and so far no notification of any such action has been received. This is clearly an indication that no case exists,” van Zyl concluded.
iBurst tower battle ‘only beginning’ – give your views