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Electric/Magnetic Fields (Housing)

Volume 453: debated on Monday 20 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) whether she (a) has assessed and (b) plans to assess the merits of placing an obligation on house vendors to inform prospective buyers of the proximity of high voltage overhead transmission lines or the average strength of extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields within a property; and if she will make a statement; (101084)

(2) what models of good practice are being followed by local planning authorities on restricting building priority new affordable homes in close proximity to high voltage overhead transmission lines; and if she will make a statement;

(3) what planned residential developments for social housing will be built in close proximity to high voltage overhead transmission lines; and if she will make a statement;

(4) what guidance she provides to local planning authorities on building priority new affordable homes in close proximity to high voltage overhead transmission lines; and if she will make a statement;

(5) whether there are initiatives within social sector housing sectors to limit the siting of new homes in close proximity to high voltage overhead transmission lines; and if she will make a statement;

(6) whether her officials are engaged in the Department of Health-led Stakeholder Advisory Group on Extremely Low Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields (SAGE) process; whether she plans to liaise with ministerial and parliamentary colleagues in determining her response to the forthcoming SAGE report; what other steps she is taking to develop policies in this area; and if she will introduce measures to protect the public from exposure to EMF from high voltage overhead transmission lines.

The Home Information Pack will become mandatory on 1 June 2007 and will include information of use to potential home buyers. Although there will be no requirement for them to do so, sellers may include a commercially produced environmental report in the pack. These reports commonly include information on actual or potential environmental hazards, including the proximity of overhead transmission lines.

Government planning for housing policies aim to ensure that new housing is developed in the most sustainable locations. In deciding whether to allocate land for housing and whether to grant planning approvals, local planning authorities need to make assessments and consider a wide range of matters about the most appropriate and most suitable location for new homes. Such assessments would include the proximity to high voltage overhead power lines as appropriate.

At present, other than the need to observe operational safe clearing distances, there is no planning guidance for local planning authorities on how to decide planning applications for new development in the vicinity of power lines.

However, following the publication of the (then) National Radiological Protection Board's new electro-magnetic field guidelines in March 2004, and the associated advice to Government, the Government are giving further consideration to taking forward the issue of building near power lines and pylons, and will, in due course, be consulting with all relevant groups.

The Stakeholder Advisory Group on electro-magnetic fields set up last year has enabled Government officials, including those from DCLG, to engage in discussions with industry, regulators, professional bodies and interest groups about how to respond to this complex issue.

The Government will consider the report findings when they are published next year.