From Katharina Gustavs / Eileen O’Connor:
Telegraph 29 April 2006 (United Kingdom)
Pylon cancer fears put Â£7bn blight on house prices
By Nic Fleming, Medical Correspondent
Up to Â£7 billion will be wiped off property values if the Government accepts the advice of experts that homes should no longer be built near overhead power lines because of possible links with childhood leukaemia.
About 130,000 houses could lose between 10 per cent and a quarter of their re-sale price if ministers take the advice of a committee set up by the Department of Health.
Research continues into whether pylons are responsible for increased cases of leukaemia
A draft of a report by the committee, seen by The Daily Telegraph, states that building houses within 230ft of high voltage power lines and 115ft of lower voltage lines should be banned.
The confidential document, written by John Swanson, the scientific adviser to the National Grid, considers the option of compulsorily buying all 75,000 homes in England and Wales that are affected.
But a more recent paper, written last month, sets out the group’s preferred option – an end to the building of houses near overhead lines and a ban on new power lines being built near existing homes.
The draft report acknowledges that implementing this as a policy could wipe a quarter off the value of 25,000 homes within 230ft of 400kv and 275kv overhead transmission lines and some 10 per cent from the value of 55,000 houses within 460ft of them.
It also admits there could be a reduction of 15 per cent in the value of 50,000 homes within 100ft of the lower voltage 132kv power lines.
The documents are the work of the Stakeholder Advisory Group on Extremely Low Frequency Electromagentic Fields (Sage). This committee was set up by the DoH in October 2004 following the publication of a report by Dr Gerald Draper, of the Oxford childhood cancer research group.
Dr Draper suggested that children under 15 living near high voltage power lines could have a 69 per cent increased risk of getting leukaemia.
Some scientists pointed out that while the research found a statistical association, it did not establish a causal link and they rejected the findings.
Sage includes representatives of the DoH, the National Grid, the Health Protection Agency, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Council of Mortgage Lenders.
Academics from the University of Bristol and Nottingham Trent University are also members, as well as a number of campaigners from groups committed to highlighting what they believe are the potential dangers of electromagnetic fields.
Nicholas Ashe, of Property Vision, a leading firm of country house and estate buying agents, said the potential loss of value to properties could be even greater than Sage’s working group predicts.
He said: “The higher the value of the house, the greater the impact. We are talking about reductions of up to 50 per cent.
“For the kind of country house we find for clients, the majority of the market would be wiped out and properties could become almost unsaleable.
“It would have the same affect as building a road nearby or the property being under a new flight path.”
The draft Sage report, dated last November, acknowledges that power lines already have an impact on property values, with a home in a rural location within 165ft of a National Grid transmission line losing 15 per cent of its value.
It considers potential policy options if the Government were to decide that no one should be allowed to live within 230ft of power lines.
These include the compulsory purchase and demolition of all houses near the lines.
“This section considers the more modest policy of applying this prospectively, ie stopping any new homes from being built near power lines but not doing anything directly with existing homes.
“However one possible consequence of this prospective-only policy is that it nonetheless causes devaluation of existing properties.”
The report lists four scenarios for the loss of value caused by the Government adopting Sage’s preliminary advice. This amounts to between Â£3 billion and Â£7 billion.
The report will be presented to the Government in June along with another report on new advice on electrical wiring within the home.
It states that whether home and landowners could claim compensation from electricity companies will depend partly on the contractual arrangements between the parties, and whether the Government introduces compulsory or voluntary measures.
Whatever happens, it seems likely that the overall costs will ultimately be borne by consumers.
A spokesman for the National Grid said: “We are not going to disclose any details until the firm conclusions of the group are published this summer.”
Telegraph 29 April 2006
Questions remain over pylon dangers
By Nic Fleming, Medical Correspondent
Despite taking seven years to complete, Dr Gerald Draper’s investigation into the links between childhood leukaemia and high-voltage power lines was by no means conclusive.
The research, published in full by the British Medical Journal last summer, looked at more than 29,000 children with cancer, including 9,700 with leukaemia, born between 1962 and 1995, and a control group of healthy youngsters in England and Wales.
Dr Draper and colleagues, from the Childhood Cancer Research Group at Oxford University, recorded the distance between the children’s addresses at birth and the nearest high-voltage power line. They found that 64 children with leukaemia lived within 650ft of the line, and 258 lived between 650ft and 1,950ft away.
By comparing with control groups, they concluded that those within 650ft were around 69 per cent more likely to develop leukaemia, and those living between 650ft and 1,950ft away were 23 per cent more likely to develop the blood cancer, when compared to those living further away from power lines.
Around 500 children under 15 are diagnosed with leukaemia, cancer of the blood, every year in Britain and around 100 die.
Dr Draper estimated that, of the 400-420 cases that occur in England and Wales, about five might be associated with living in proximity to high voltage power lines.
The first suggestion of a link between EMFs and childhood leukaemia came from US researchers Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper.
Eddie O’Gorman, the chairman of the charity Children with Leukaemia, said: “Planning controls must be introduced to stop houses and schools being built close to high-voltage overhead power lines.”
While the researchers found a clear trend between the distance at which children were born from power lines and the risk of leukaemia, they could find no explanation for the finding. Some scientists have suggested magnetic fields produced by the lines could be to blame. However, the study found a raised risk beyond 650ft – a distance at which magnetic fields from power lines are at or below background levels.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said this could mean at least some of the increased risk of leukaemia could be associated with factors other than EMFs.
The HPA responded to Dr Draper’s study by suggesting that a “precautionary approach”. Dr Michael Clarke, scientific spokesman for the HPA, said: “There is no hard evidence of a risk, but there is a hint of one. We formally suggested that the Government should consider precautionary measures.”
The Department of Health said: “The Department of Health commissioned and funded the biggest ever study of its kind into cases of childhood cancer in proximity to high voltage power lines. This showed a statistical association, but no casual link.
“We have set up a group to consider the evidence and whether there is a need to develop precautionary measures. Ministers will consider the group’s recommendations when they report.”
Telegraph 29 April 2006
Case study: Â£1m home ‘blighted by cables’ cannot be sold for half the price
By Nigel Bunyan
Dermot Finnigan has suffered greatly from the blight of a power cable.
Four years ago his home, set beside a golf club in Sale, Greater Manchester, was worth upwards of Â£1 million.
Today it is so compromised by the erection of a 40kva pylon that he cannot sell it even at a huge loss. A potential buyer agreed in February to pay Â£495,000, but pulled out of the deal on Wednesday following publication in The Daily Telegraph of the latest report linking power lines to childhood leukaemia.
An estate agent is charging Â£4,000 “up-front” simply to continue marketing the property, while his bank will not risk a Â£50,000 loan so he can meet domestic bills.
National Grid Transco disputes Mr Finnigan’s claim that the huge structure encroaches on his land, while the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, which sees the pylon as integral to its hopes of extending the city’s Metrolink system, refuses to even discuss valuation.
The impasse means Mr Finnigan, 51, a former demolition contractor, and his wife, Janet, 49, are trapped in the four-bedroom home they regarded as their slice of “countryside in the city”.
At the same time, his enforced retirement because of cancer means the couple have only minimal income.
“This is a classic David and Goliath scenario, except we are up against two Goliaths,” he said yesterday.
“GMPTE have passed it on to the National Grid and the National Grid are in denial.
“They say we are ineligible for compensation because the cables overhang a few centimetres beyond our boundary. They are wrong and we have a 1956 ordnance survey plan to prove it. They have a moral responsibility to compensate us.”
The latest report means there will be a lot more people who find themselves in a similar position.
The Finnigans bought a 10-acre site at Fairways Farm, close to the M60, in 1984. They planted 3,000 trees and built a house.
“For more than 10 years it was perfect, an absolute delight to live here,” said Mr Finnigan. “But in May 2002 we were served with a compulsory purchase order made on behalf of GMPTE.
“We were told they wanted us out by Christmas, but weren’t given either a price or any possible recourse.
“Fifteen months later the CPO was removed. We were told the pylon was going up at New Farm, next door to us, but that we would still be compensated. But instead of putting it up in place of the two houses there they built it at a different spot and gave the houses to Sale Golf Club.
“They seem to have moved it to one side in order to avoid compensating us.”
The Finnigans’ problems have been made worse by the removal of hundreds of trees – to facilitate the pylon – that screened their home from the noise of the motorway.
“Ninety per cent of buyers are put off by the pylon; the rest by the noise,” he said.
National Grid Transco insisted that neither the old nor the new route of the power lines crossed Mr Finnigan’s land.
GMPTE said it took the case “very seriously”. But despite being sympathetic to Mr Finnigan’s situation, it said he was not legally entitled to compensation.
Telegraph 29 April 2006
The power game
”¢ The National Grid was set up in 1926
”¢ The first pylon was built in Edinburgh in 1928
”¢ The 3,000-mile grid was completed in the New Forest in 1933, It was nationalised in 1947
”¢ National Grid operates the electricity network across the UK, but only owns the grid in England and Wales. The rest belongs to Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Energy and Northern Ireland Electricity
”¢ The National Grid network across England and Wales is 4,660 miles long and contains 22,000 pylons