Today I had one of those situations that left me feeling unavoidably bad, but there was really nothing I could do. Beth sent me a text message part way through the morning asking me to get home promptly as she had arranged a viewing of a great house in Wokingham, where the sale had fallen through, and had just come back on to the market. Apparently it had sold on the first day it came on to the market, and looking at the details I could see why. It had a double length garage, three good sized bedrooms, two reception rooms, a secluded garden, and all at a reasonable price. Looking at the pictures it looked like it was well decorated too.
Looking on the map, it was just round the corner from work, so on my lunch break I thought I’d go take a look – which is where I found the big problem – power lines. The power line that crosses this part of Wokingham goes straight over the top of the house – indeed I was quite amazed that the agent managed to get two external shots of the house without it being visible.
There has been a lot of stuff in the press about links between proximity to power lines and cancer, although it is worth stressing that the link has not been proved. However the big problem now is that according to this article from May, there is enough concern over power lines that there is consideration of banning development close to lines, a move supported by National Grid themselves. There are a couple of options of how this would work in practice, one would be to purchase all existing property close to lines that wouldn’t meet the new regulations. However the other, much cheaper option, is more of a concern for buying a property like this one. The planning regulations would be changed to ban new developments – but do nothing about existing property. Whilst it saves the government and National Grid a lot of money not buying all the existing properites, owners of those properties would find that the value of their property would plummet overnight, as the planning decision would all but confirm to most people that living close to a power line is dangerous. This would blight thousands of properties across the UK, knocking an estimated Â£7bn of property prices.
Anyway, after thinking about it for a bit, I asked Beth to cancel the appointment. She was all for going to look at it anyway, as we had agreed a time. But ultimately, since I don’t want to buy a property that could have thousands wiped off the value in a few months or years, I wouldn’t consider buying this house however good the house itself is. Whilst I feel exceptionally sorry for the people who own the house currently, and who have obviously spent a lot of time on decorating and refurbishing it, I thought it would be cruel to go and view the house when I have no intention of buying it.
Having said that, the exercise has been worthwhile, as the article lists the currently proposed distances from power lines, which especially around here could blight a significant number of houses, particularly large parts of Penrose Park, parts of the new Poppyfields development, and a number of other otherwise desirable properties in the area. Certainly double checking the locations of houses on an Ordnance Survey map, which shows power lines would be a worthwhile exercise.
The BBC also has an informative Question and Answer page on the British Medical Journal study linking proximity to power lines with childhood leukaemia. The study suggested that those living within 200m of power lines had a 70% higher risk than those more than 600m away.
Incidentally, the picture above was taken by Donovan Hide, and isn’t of the house in question.