Comments by Dr Peter Fraser 19/4/2016

Beauly- Blackhillock and Blackhillock-Kintore Reinforcements Preferred Corridor Amendment

 As a local Community Councillor I have been made aware of strong opposition from a large number of local people to the pylons ever since those affected by the amended corridor have been informed about what has been proposed. I have a number of personal concerns and write with some comments to strongly object to this poorly thought out scheme.

It is well agreed that new power lines affect house and land valuations with figures of 20 – 40% reductions in building and land prices reported.

I am greatly concerned about SSE’s consultation procedure. The late inclusion of the Northern boundary extension to the Southern corridor makes the consultation process distorted and unfair by putting undue emphasis on the addition to the corridor. Many affected did not hear about this scheme. A much shorter time for consultation than for all other parts of the corridor is patently unfair especially when coupled with ambiguity regarding the deadline for comments, which will have inhibited responses. Furthermore the coincidence with elections removes access to our MSP.

I have correspondence dated 18th January 2016, which describes the area in a way which indicates others knew about this extension to the corridor before it happened. Furthermore even in your own documentation (UK1220600_4_BBK_ConsultationDoc_revised Nov2015), Fig 3 shows a striped area which corresponds closely with what we now know as the extended corridor as shown in maps given out at the consultation meeting on 9th March in Monymusk. That is described as “Areas of overlap between Central and Southern Corridors” although no part of it around our area is in either corridor as laid out in the rest of that earlier document.

Both this document and the correspondence I have of 18th January show there has been a hidden agenda known to some individuals and to SSE. The big question is what had already been decided before the consultation meeting in Monymusk.

The need for this new line is not well justified and clearly based on out of date information. The government National Planning Framework 3 does not include it. Nor is the mitigation stated in that document allowed in the choices imposed by SSE. The decline in the oil industry around Aberdeen since 2014 together with significant change to LED lighting (which is acknowledged to have affected peak electricity demands) together with removal of onshore wind subsidies are not considered by SSE and may well mean the extra power capacity discussed is not required at this time.

This is clearly an attempt from SSE to impose the cheapest transmission line using what is now largely out of date infrastructure with maximum impact on landscape views and maximum EMF effects nearby on what is a large unspoiled area. The area described as North east Glens by SNH does not seem to have been properly considered in terms of its landscapes and wildlife as highly valued assets.

The way the proposed extension threads its way with 50m pylons extremely close to and looming over designated landscape areas round Castle Fraser, Cluny Castle (wrongly labeled as Clunie Castle in early documentation) and Valued Views such as that around Bennachie which are presently under consultation by Aberdeenshire Council is frankly insulting to anyone who values our heritage of views and countryside and is in direct contradiction to main stated policies of National Grid.

National Grid states: “we will ensure that benefits, constraints and adverse impacts of proposed works are communicated openly for meaningful stakeholder and community comment and discussion. We will be clear about any aspects of the works that cannot be altered”. And “We are very aware of the impact of new overhead transmission lines on the landscape and on local communities, and we do consider other technologies to mitigate this such as placing new electricity lines underground as buried cables. This is known as ‘undergrounding’.” When discussing an independent report dated 31/1/12 National Grid stated “as a company, we are neutral to the type of transmission technology we use – be it overhead lines or underground cables. The decision on method is made on a case by case basis after consultation with the authorities and communities involved”

In this case no undergrounding options are offered for the consultation process with communities in direct contradiction to your statements.

National Grid is dismissive of health effects related to electromagnetic fields and is particularly misleading with statements such as “Though the balance of evidence is against there being any effect on human health from exposure to EMFs there is some scientific evidence suggesting a possible link between unusually high exposures to magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia.”

That there is any evidence is highly significant furthermore the scope of reported effects is much wider than childhood leukemia although that is serious enough. Consider simply a small sample of available literature to illustrate the inadequacy of National Grid’s approach to health issues. Two recent studies on health effects are:

Lewis RC, Hauser R, Maynard AD, Neitzel RL, Wang L, Kavet R, Meeker JD. Exposure to Power-Frequency Magnetic Fields and the Risk of Infertility and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes: Update on the Human Evidence and Recommendations for Future Study Designs. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2016;19(1):29-45. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2015.1134370.

Maes A, Anthonissen R, Wambacq S, Simons K, Verschaeve L. The Cytome Assay as a Tool to Investigate the Possible Association Between Exposure to Extremely Low Frequency Magnetic Fields and an Increased Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2016 Jan 12;50(3):741-9. doi: 10.3233/JAD-150669.

And further consider the recent appeal to the United Nations by a large group of concerned scientists although accessible via the National Grid website little considered by them.

International Appeal

Scientists call for Protection from Non-ionizing Electromagnetic Field Exposure

“We are scientists engaged in the study of biological and health effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields (EMF). Based upon peer-reviewed, published research, we have serious concerns regarding the ubiquitous and increasing exposure to EMF generated by electric and wireless devices. These include–but are not limited to–radiofrequency radiation (RFR) emitting devices, such as cellular and cordless phones and their base stations, Wi-Fi, broadcast antennas, smart meters, and baby monitors as well as electric devices and infra-structures used in the delivery of electricity that generate extremely-low frequency electromagnetic field (ELF EMF).”

National Grid is not seriously addressing these concerns, which should be reflected in serious measures warning and preventing human exposure to EMFs.

Apart from humans, many animals are particularly sensitive to electromagnetic fields and overhead powerlines are well known to disrupt orientation to the earth’s magnetic field. Thresholds for disorienting effects are known at levels 1000x less than WHO guidelines. As a Fellow and former chairman of the Royal Institute of Navigation Animal Navigation Group I have attended most of the series of 9 International conferences in Animal Navigation including the most recent, which was held from 13th – 15th April 2016 at Royal Hollaway College. Over the past 30 years there have been large advances in our understanding of how animals sense and react to magnetic fields. I am not aware that National Grid has altered any policies in line with these advances in knowledge. It is clear that magnetic fields from the 400kV line proposed by SSE could adversely affect movements of bees, birds, bats (one of the largest colonies of bats in NE Scotland is found in Monymusk) and deer, all of which are known to use magnetic fields for orientation. Ospreys are known to nest close to the proposed extension to the corridor and protection to pylons to protect birds is considered necessary in other countries such as Sweden but not offered here.

A particular advance in our understanding of how a magnetoreceptor could work at the molecular level was published in Nature Materials in November 2015 and reported by Can Xie at RIN16. Qin et al, (2015) identified a magnetosensing protein (MagR) which forms a rod-like complex with Cryptochrome. Knowledge of this may well increase our understanding of how magnetic field sensing could work at the molecular level and given links between cryptochromes and body clocks may point to how magnetic fields could interact with the body to lead to health problems.

Qin, S et al, 2015 A magnetic protein biocompass. Nature Materials DOI:10.1038/NMAT4484

Other countries are far ahead of the UK in terms of undergrounding high voltage lines with for example Denmark aiming to put most lines underground by 2040 and technologies are advancing rapidly allowing HVDC systems to compete where point to point transmission is done over distances greater than 100km. Much greater use of undersea systems is possible and costs will diminish as offshore systems advance. The system proposed here could have been proposed decades ago. It is clear that the same effort, which has been put into sanitizing problems for SSE in the literature fed to the public has not been put into designing systems to overcome problems.

Yours sincerely

Dr Peter Fraser FRIN