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Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Plans to install new telecommunication dish sparks concerns in Hillingdon

A planning application has been met with opposition by Hillingdon residents. Plans to add a telecommunication dish to the Point West building on Uxbridge Road saw four letters sent to the council against them as well as a petition with 31 signatures.

The seemingly routine application which will see three telecommunication dishes removed with four new ones being added has caused some concern amongst locals due to fears that microwave radiation might be damaging people’s health. Speaking at the council’s planning meeting Katrina Patterson made it clear to many in the public gallery that the application should be abandoned.

She told the assembled councillors: “People in the existing arrangement of masts and antennae on top of the Point West building makes a threatening and unsightly silhouette.” The Hillingdon resident elaborated that she and others were concerned about the effects of microwaves on people’s physiology and psychological well-being.

“There is not enough evidence of safety to proceed with this plan.” Ms Patterson said. She cites studies that propose that exposure to microwaves in certain circumstances can cause health issues.

In high doses and concentrations non-ionising radiation which includes radiowaves and microwaves can be damaging, including heating human skin that it is exposed to. Cancer Research UK says that: “The radiation that mobile phones or phone masts transmit and receive is very weak. It does not have enough energy to damage DNA so it is highly unlikely to be able to cause cancer.”

On top of this, the electromagnetic field (EMF) of the telecommunication dishes will be extremely limited due to the fact transmissions are ‘entirely directional’ producing a ‘narrow and focused field’ according to the application. This statement is supported by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) which certified the claims by the applicant New Line Networks.

It added that the Point West building is 31.7m tall and therefore no member of the public is at risk from any EMFs. Another concern raised by Ms Patterson was that even if there wasn’t direct radiation from EMFs people could still suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) a syndrome with non-specific symptoms.

Ms Patterson says that residents should be given a 500-metre exclusion zone from the dishes EMFs “to protect from known health effects such as nausea, dizziness and sleep abnormalities.” However, research into EHS is inconclusive.

A 2020 study by Environmental Health wrote that no hypothesis about EHS “proves totally satisfying” after conducting a review of three possible causes of the syndrome. They looked into the idea that EHS is indeed directly caused by EMFs, that it is a psychosomatic disease which causes a ‘nocebo’ effect (like a placebo but negative instead of positive) and the possibility that EHS is used as an explanation for other health conditions but didn’t conclude that any one of them was the reason.

Councillors listened to Ms Patterson’s speech sympathetically but judged that the ICNIRP’s advice was more compelling. Cllr Roy Chamdal said they could only consider it on “planning grounds” and couldn’t see a reason to reject the application on that basis.

The application also received the assent of the Ministry of Defence and Heathrow which requested to be informed if any changes were made to plans contained within due to the dishes’ proximity to the RAF Northolt and the airport. The council voted for six against one in favour of the proposal.