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Blighted life in the shadow of a powerful neighbour

THE PYLON at the bottom of Elaine Marcham's garden is half-yellow, half-silver. It was being redecorated, but the painting was stopped because a family of kestrels had made its home in the steel frame, writes Susan Watts.

Mrs Marcham is not happy. Apart from potential health risks, she has regarded the pylon as an eyesore ever since she and her husband, Gordon, bought their house in Beckton, east London, in 1987.

'I just hope they get the painting done before September,' she said, 'because my daughter's getting married and I don't want that great yellow thing staring down at us.'

The pylon, which stands two feet from the back fence of their garden, is one of 21 that form a 6.5km power line running through development land in east London's docks. Mrs Marcham has suffered persistent severe headaches ever since she moved in.

The Marchams say the previous occupier showed them a letter, apparently from National Grid, saying the pylons would be removed within 15 months. But the company has since denied ever having sent such a letter.

Last year, a government inquiry concluded there were no overwhelming planning grounds for removing the line, but called for a review after 15 years - in 2008.

The company was also told to discuss power transmission alternatives - like underground cabling - with the owners of the land on which the pylons stand. These include British Rail, British Gas, the London Borough of Newham and the London Docklands Development Corporation. Negotiations are still under way, a spokeswoman said.

Mrs Marcham said National Grid workers painting the pylon told her it would be remaining in place for the full 15 years.

She agreed that council planning officers needed clear guidelines from the Government if there were health risks to residents on housing developments near power lines: 'They should come out and say one way or the other whether or not it is dangerous, and stop messing about and saying they don't know.'

Mrs Marcham believes she has little hope of selling their house for anything close to the pounds 63,000 price they paid for it. 'The chap next door has just sold his - but had to let it go for around pounds 45,000.'

(Photograph omitted)