Andrew RT Davies doesn’t want a substation built in Cardiff due to electromagnetic ’emissions’
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
The leader of the Welsh Conservatives doesn’t want a substation built in Cardiff due to concern about electromagnetic fields.
The MS for South Wales Central objected to a recent planning application for a small building housing a proposed substation.
While Western Power Distribution doesn’t need planning permission to build substations – of which there are many across Cardiff -developers wanted to build a small hut to contain it.
But the application for the hut sparked concerns from local residents that electromagnetic fields emitted from the substation could cause cancer.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are emitted wherever electricity is used, including in homes and from equipment which makes up electricity infrastructure, like substations. Scientists have investigated the link between EMF and diseases for decades, including cancer.
According to the Energy Networks Association, small electricity substations produce very small amounts of EMFs. These fields “fall rapidly with distance, and within one to two metres are usually indistinguishable from other fields present in homes”.
A small number of scientists claim there could be a possible link between childhood leukemia and living very close to high voltage overhead power lines, but there is no consensus on this, and these power lines emit far more EMFs than small substations.
However, local residents objected to the planning application on health and safety fears. 53 petitioners called on Cardiff council to reject the plans for the substation in Pontcanna. They were supported by local councillors and Andrew RT Davies, as a local Senedd Member.
Writing to the council, the Tory leader said: “I have been contracted by constituents expressing concern about the electricity substation application. They have raised several concerns including … the safety of emissions from the substation.”
‘We need substations’
Other concerns included losing open space and low frequency noise.
The substation would be built behind a controversial development of apartments on the corner of Cathedral Road and Talbot Street, for which planning permission was granted last summer. Developers said the substation was needed to provide electricity to the flats.
Councillors on the planning committee at Cardiff council granted permission for the small hut to be built around the proposed substation, at a meeting on Wednesday, August 18.
Matthew Morris, who lives nearby, told councillors on the planning committee he might be forced to move house if EMF readings were higher after the substation is installed.
He said: “My main concern is the potential health effects to my family and my neighbours. Increased levels of EMFs emitted by a substation can cause headaches, migraines, insomnia and other neurological effects.
“More worryingly for me there is a link between EMFs and childhood leukemia. I have two small children who regularly play in the garden which is maybe three metres away from the proposed substation.
“Neurological studies have found a statistical correlation between increased EMF levels and childhood leukemia. I will take EMF readings prior and post the building of the substation, and if they’re significantly higher I’ll need to decide whether to move from my family home or place potential risk to my children’s health.”
Responding to these concerns, Councillor Mike Jones-Pritchard said EMFs come from “everything around us” and substations are needed for society to function.
He said: “Childhood leukemia connection with EMF relates to high voltage overhead power lines, and not to local small substations. EMFs come from microwaves, phones and everything else around us.
“We’re looking at a building that’s going to hold a substation, but the substation could be put there without the building. There are quite a few locations where substations are adjoining front or rear gardens of properties. We need substations to operate the society we live in and to have all the facilities that we have.”
The planning committee voted to grant approval for the small hut enclosing the substation, with one councillor abstaining from the vote.