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November 24, 2005 Thursday
Substation – move welcomed by staff
An electrical substation at Cheltenham Town Hall will soon be moved after it led to fears of a cancer cluster in the building. Staff threatened to strike last year after four employees developed the disease in the space of two years.
Three later died, including a 60-year- old woman who worked directly above the underground substation. Now engineers are preparing to switch it to a site between the Town Hall and The Quadrangle. Sophie Wilson, joint Unison branch secretary, is delighted. She said: “From a Unison point of view we’re pleased it’s finally happening. “It’s caused concern for staff and members for a long time. This will give us a lot of reassurance. “It’s a shame this hasn’t happened sooner. “Whether the links between the substation and the illnesses can be made definite or not, it’s been the cause of a lot of unnecessary anxiety.” Cheltenham Borough Council spokeswoman Elizabeth Richmond said: “It’s anticipated the substation will be removed from the Town Hall at some point during the next few weeks. This has yet to be confirmed. “There will be no costs to this council for its removal. “An electricity company is paying for its relocation to a new building between the Town Hall and The Quadrangle, on the other side of the pathway. “Staff are happy it is moving as they will benefit from extra space in the building.” She added: “There have been no recent incidents of cancer.” Workers, who signed a petition following the cancer fears, were offered free health checks. The room above the substation was converted into storage as a precautionary measure in 2002. This followed an independent investigation into electromagnetic field
levels in the Town Hall. An inquiry by Midlands Electricity, now Central Networks, found levels in the office above the substation were more than five times those of anywhere else in the building. But they were still a 50th of the recommended safe limit. The affected workers were among a department of 55 who worked for the festivals and entertainment division based at the Town Hall in Imperial Square. Central Networks declined to comment. “Staff are happy it is moving as they will benefit from extra space in the building.”
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