Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA (L 148)


CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA is a leading national charity dedicated to fighting Britain’s biggest childhood cancer. We fund life-saving research into the causes, prevention and treatment of childhood leukaemia and we work to protect young lives through essential welfare and campaigning programmes.

1.1 Childhood leukaemia is the most common childhood cancer and accounts for one third of all childhood cancer cases. Around 450 children are diagnosed every year in the UK and, although treatments have improved dramatically over the last few decades, sadly 100 of these will not survive and the remainder go through several years of gruelling treatment.

1.2 We campaign to protect children at risk of developing leukaemia and seek to raise awareness of the association between leukaemia and children who live close to high voltage overhead power lines. Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs) are produced by electrical power wherever electricity is generated, distributed or used. High voltage overhead power lines produce elevated levels of EMFs.

1.3 We ask Government to protect children and young people by preventing them from being exposed to the potentially harmful EMFs associated with high voltage overhead power lines.

2. Our campaign objectives

2.1 Reports suggest that children born within 200m of high voltage power lines have a 69% increased risk of developing leukaemia in childhood (Draper et al. 2005). The statistical association between EMFs and childhood leukaemia is clear, but the causal mechanism is not yet understood. CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA funds vital research to improve understanding of this and other causes of childhood leukaemia.

2.2 Whilst important research is being undertaken to clarify the association between power lines and an increased risk of developing childhood leukaemia, we believe that a precautionary principle should be applied to the development of homes and schools in relation to existing power lines. Further, we believe that, where possible, new power lines should be undergrounded and, as a minimum requirement, sited away from homes and schools.

2.3 Our campaign has received much support from MPs. An example of this is the 2007 Cross-Party Inquiry into Childhood Leukaemia and Extremely Low Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields (ELF EMF). The Inquiry MPs recommended to Government that a building moratorium be introduced on the construction of new homes within at least 60 metres of existing high voltage overhead power lines, and vice versa, to protect children’s health.

2.4 We believe that our campaign also fits more broadly into the wider debate about the quality of the design and sustainability of our communities, the importance of open spaces and the need to take public health issues in to consideration in planning applications. We have therefore been engaging with a number of different stakeholders to discuss and develop this broad agenda. We are aware that the Government, through the Localism Bill, is looking to empower communities and to encourage the greater involvement of local people in the design of their communities.

3. The Localism Bill

3.1 We are broadly supportive of the Government’s Localism Bill and the Localism agenda.

3.2 From our research and our meetings with Council Leaders, Parliamentarians and community action groups, we believe that communities are increasingly concerned about the impact of power lines, not only on health grounds but also due to their impact on urban design and quality of life. We therefore strongly support the proposition to empower the public to have a greater say over the design of their communities through the Localism Bill.

3.3 It is vital that the Bill gives local residents the power to instigate, via a petition, a referendum on any local issue in order to prevent unwanted or ill-considered developments including power lines. We believe this is vital to our campaign to prevent power lines being sited in inappropriate positions within our communities. We believe the power of referenda will offer communities an invaluable say in the design of their community, not only reflecting our concerns about power lines but also helping to protect our towns and countryside from ill-considered development.

3.4 As the UK is about to embark upon the biggest phase of construction of power-lines since the 1960s, we believe that green spaces, especially those in towns, open land and the countryside, need to be protected from development, including power lines, to maintain and create open spaces, parks and play areas in communities.

3.5 Alongside this is the broader reform of the planning system being considered in the Localism Bill and in particular the development of new Neighbourhood Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders which, amongst other considerations, are intended to give local people new rights to shape the development of their communities. We support the consideration of Neighbourhood Plans and the efforts to encourage greater public participation in the planning process.

3.6 We believe that public health issues need to be given full consideration in all planning applications and we have been calling for public health impact assessments to be undertaken on all planning applications. We ask that this would take in to account the vicinity of power lines to homes and schools.

3.7 We support the Government’s reform of the planning system and for the opportunity the Localism Bill presents for members of the public to have a greater say over the design of their communities.

4. Evidence

4.1 In 2002 the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO IARC) defined ELF EMFs as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ [1] and classified them as a class 2b carcinogen. Whilst the causes of childhood leukaemia are not well understood, with increasing incidence in the 20th century, it’s believed that lifestyle and/or environmental factors may be involved. One such factor is the Extremely Low Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields (ELF EMF) that are produced by overhead power lines.

4.2 A UK study, (Draper et al. 2005), found that children born within 200 metres of a high voltage power line had a 69% increased risk of developing leukaemia and those born between 200 and 600 metres had a 23% increase in risk, compared with children born more than 600 metres away. This report, published in the British Medical Journal and funded by the Department of Health, is the largest single study of childhood cancer and power lines. It used the records of almost 30,000 children with cancer in England and Wales [2] .

February 2011

[1] An Overview of WHO's EMF Project and the Health Effects of EMF Exposure, Michael H Repacholi, Proceedings of the International Conference on Non-Ionizing Radiation at UNITEN (ICNIR 2003) , Electromagnetic Fields and Our Health , 20th–22nd October 2003 , World Health O rganization.

[1] http://www.who.int/peh-emf/meetings/archive/en/keynote4repacholi.pdf


[2] Childhood cancer in relation to distance from high voltage power lines in England and Wales : a case-control study, Draper et al, British Medical Journa l V olume 330, 4 J une 2005 pp.1290-1293 http://www.bmj.com/cgi/reprint_abr/330/7503/1290.pdf