Ask The Expert: Should we be worried about living close to an electrical substation?


Fiona McNulty
Friday 10 February 2012 01:00

Q. My fiancée and I have found the perfect home – almost. It has an electrical substation in a fenced-off area just behind the house. The place has been on the market for quite a while and I think the substation is putting buyers off.

We want to start a family and wonder if we should have any health concerns about being so close to a substation. Do you think we are worrying unnecessarily? Have you come across this before?

A. People often worry about the proximity of a property to an electricity substation. And, yes, sometimes a house right next to one can prove quite difficult to sell.

Substations are part of the electricity supply network and their size may vary depending on whether they are built to supply homes or industry.

The one you describe sounds like the type often found in residential areas and I expect it has a large yellow danger sign somewhere on the fencing that warns about the risk of getting electric shocks.

Because it is a substation, it is not hazardous in itself, but will be surrounded by an electromagnetic field. Ask the sellers for more details about the substation and contact the electricity supplier, not just for information about the substation but for the whereabouts of the cables and the level of the electromagnetic field.

It is possible for meter readings to be taken of both electric and magnetic fields so that you can make an informed decision whether or not to buy.

Q. We are buying a house with a mortgage that we are getting from our bank. We have a solicitor but the bank says he's not on their "panel" . We have to have one of their panel solicitors or else keep our solicitor and pay for one of their panel ones to represent them. This seems very unfair. Is there anything we can do?

A. No, not really. Your bank has offered you a mortgage subject to its terms and conditions, one of which will be that lawyers on its panel must act for the bank.

Generally the same law firm has acted for both the bank and the borrower, though it is fair to say that some banks have always insisted on being separately represented.

Until recently, most lenders had large numbers of law firms on their panels: a borrower could choose one for themselves, as long as it was on the lender's panel. The lender would then simply instruct the borrower's lawyers to act for the lender, too.

Alternatively, you could use your lender's panel lawyers. Or you could borrow from another lender which does not restrict your choice.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Ask the Expert email Fiona McNulty is a partner in the residential estate team team at Thrings LLP (

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