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Your Questions

If you would like to ask a general question please send it to

However, specific questions (such "what voltage is this pylon carrying?") are best answered on the members' messageboard - sign up and join us!

  1. What would be the recommended distance to live when a pylon is close by?
  2. Are you aware of any pylon designs that are more aethestically appealing to the 'non-pylon appreciation society'?
  3. What are the dangers of having a house next to the pylons, does it affects life span or any electrical appliance in the house?
  4. When were electricity pylons introduced to Great Britain (in mass)?
  5. Why are pylons painted in different colours?
  6. Do you have images of the Thames crossing pylons in Thurrock?
  7. I am an estate agent trying to sell a property with a pylon in the garden - can you help?
  8. I'm doing a school project and want to know the good points of pylons...
  9. Is there a forum to discuss pylons?
  10. How many pylons are there in the UK?
  11. What TV programmes have there been about pylons?
  12. What rights do I have to photograph pylons? I am worried that people might think I am a terrorist.
  13. Are there any maps of pylons showing their routes and what voltage they carry?

Laura Johnston writes...

What would be the recommended distance to live when a pylon is close by. we have seen a property and the pylon is approx 50m away if not more, we would like some more advise and help in trying to find the recommended distance.

The question you should really ask is "How near is the house to power cables" as the pylon itself is just inert steel, it is the wires themselves that have a field around them. So it's not really where the pylon is, it's how close the lines run.

As to how close - as far as I know there is no recommended distance, because there are conflicting pieces of research, some suggesting there may be a link between power lines and cancer, some say there is no link. So far it has not been proved that there is any harmful effect, so there are no guidelines drawn up. However, if it's something that concerns you, it's a matter for personal preference.

I appreciate that's not very helpful, but that's how things stand at the moment. Personally I don't see any harm in it, and if there were no wires nearby, I couldn't power my house! But it's your choice, of course. I would read around the subject (there are some links in my pylon FAQ to get you started) and make your own choice when you feel you have more information at your disposal.

You could also ask the local hospital or council for cancer or health statistics for that area, relative to the UK, if you feel it would help. Or you can usually find information at the Government's statistics website - not sure if there will be anything relevant, but worth a look.

Hope this helps.

D Stobbs writes...

Are you aware of any pylon designs that are more aethestically appealing to the 'non-pylon appreciation society'?

I believe that some power companies have research monies available to invest in alternative design solutions in sensitive locations. A french alternative design (petit jean ?) has been suggested, do you know anything about such alternatives.

I would be interested to hear from you if you can be of any assistance as my Company are currently discussing the imact of a proposed new line with Scottish-Southern .

There are a few more asthetic designs around - usually those which have evolved as the result of a design competition or been agreed with the local area.

The company Petit Jean has a design which looks something like the design shown on the left, but a little smaller.

In Cambridge Science Park they have these poles instead.

I'm not sure that poles could be used for high voltage (where increased spacing and large insulator strings are required). However they are useful for domestic areas.

For another design, this was the winning entry in an Italian competition (made by a UK company, Foster and Partners).

Very innovative and non-pylon-like!

Near Bristol you can see this low profile design. Low profile pylons are used in areas of outstanding natural beauty (so as not to protrude on the skyline) or near flight paths.

(The fluorescent tubes were part of an art exhibition!)

I hope I've been of help.

Prins Mhlanga writes...

What are the dangers of having a house next to the pylons, does it affects our life span or of any electrical appliance in the house?

The best answer I can give you is "Do power lines cause cancer?" -

To be honest, if you are in the garden and directly under lots of high voltage power lines then it is possible you would come across some electromagnetic radiation, but whether that would be high enough to make a difference I don't know. I don't believe so. If the cables are low voltage then it is even less significant. I don't think you would notice anything unless you had a meter to measure it, in any case. There is background radiation in nature anyway.

Once in the house I believe that it would act as a natural shield and you would not notice anything at all.

But I am not qualified in this area. All I can do is point you to my website, which contains links to different news stories about whether power lines cause cancer (so far no link is proved) and encourage you to do your own research to help you make up your own mind. Perhaps you could ask previous or neighbouring residents if they suffered from any particular health or electrical problems. Please do report back, so I can update my information!

Best of luck.

Hilary Adlington writes...

Could you answer a question for me please - When were electricity pylons introduced to Great Britain (in mass)- I don't remember seeing them as a child but seem to remember them springing up all over the place when I was in my teens - my husband said they have been here for like ever!!! - can you settle this for me please.

If I can help I will!

You might have read on my FAQ that the design used in bulk by the CEGB was designed in 1928. This was when they started to realise the need and to have a design rather than to make one-offs each time. We still see some of the earlier designs commonly in the UK such as the L2, designed in 1956. I won't bore you with all the designs unless you wish to read the guide to pylon designs.

In terms of when they started "springing up" I am aware of a Government Information film, very old in black and white, called Prelude To Prosperity, in which everyone is told what a great thing pylons are because they represent the extension of the power grid and the fact that our country is developing. These days of course people don't look on pylons as fondly! Anyway, my guess is the film is from the early 50s, and pylons became more commonplace in the 60s.

I imagine that after World War II ended, the country began to rebuild and develop, and with that came the influx of pylons needed to support the National Grid.

Hope that helps!

Dave Dawn writes...

Why are pylons painted in different colours?

In the UK pylons are not initially painted. The parts are galvanized when made, by dipping in molten zinc. This provides corrosion protection and is why the pylons look bluey-grey. Only once the zinc coating has weathered away might pylons be painted for protection.

The colours that pylons take on may also be rust or algae, rather than paint!

However in France painting is more common to help them blend into the background; green in a forest, blue against sky, etc. They are also painted red and white (striped) when near to airports, to increase visibility.

Carly Pearce writes...

Do you have images of the Thames crossing pylons in Thurrock? I'm in my second year at university studying architecture and planning, my project at the moment is to create a study on the 380kV Thames Crossing, West Thurrock, UK. Even though it is obviously a very special pylon I am having trouble finding any information or even a picture of it.

It's the tallest pylon in the UK, see this Wikipedia entry. The design isn't special; it's the same as other river crossings in the UK but with huge height extension to the legs.

Here are my photos: Thames Crossing pylons.

Nick James writes...

I am an estate agent trying to sell a property with a pylon in the garden - can you help? I have heard there is an EU directive which says that by 2010 all overhead cables / pylons should be put underground.

I certainly haven't heard anything of the sort; I know that with new lines they do try to put them underground, but even if they started now and worked 24/7 I can't imagine the UK's existing lines could be buried by 2010!

If you are trying to sell the property, you can answer queries about health with this link where Cancer Research UK say that there is no evidence that it causes cancer.

Also, if it is a large pylon (high voltage) then it is possible that the landowner would be paid a fee by the electricity distribution company for the privilege - see the National Grid's site under "Electricity Agreements" as an example - so maybe you could even sell it as a benefit?

Fiona Legate writes...

I'm doing a school project and want to know the good points of pylons...

Well, you could consider the efficiency of their structure - and the fact that as they are lattices, there are lots of gaps so they blend into the landscape better than a solid shape e.g. poles.

They can be adapted for use in different situations (river crossing, height extension, or low height for areas of natural beauty or near an airport) and they can be used around the world.

It depends what you are comparing them too. Maybe you want to look at the cost, time and disruption of erecting a powerline with pylons as opposed to laying cables underground. Also the ease of repair to a cable if necessary. For the figures, have a look at this research article (PDF).

And finally don't forget that a lot of the negative press relates to the powerlines. A pylon itself is simply a metal inert structure which does a good job of holding up cables. If there are any worries or problems it is the power line itself that is the issue, as this is what actually carries the electricity.

Hope those pointers get you thinking.

Various members wrote...

Have you thought of putting a forum on the website or a page where members can add images they have collected?

Your wish is my command! There is now a messageboard where you can chat, ask questions and post images.

I hope you enjoy using it. Forums work best when lots of people contribute!

Various members wrote...

How many pylons are there in the UK?

National Grid have approximately 22,000. However there are of course other companies to consider. A rough estimate would be 72,000 high voltage towers, and an unknown number of older, smaller towers.

Various members wrote...

What TV programmes have there been about pylons?

There was a post-war Public Information Film called "Prelude to Prosperity" which portrayed the expansion of the power network and the erection of pylons as a positive thing for the future of Britain.

More recently was an OU broadcast showing how insulators were made. If anyone has more information on this, I would love to know!

Then in 1997 there was a documentary "Silvering Up" about men who paint pylons (and in 1998 the film "Among Giants" told a fictional love story about pylon painters!)

In 2007 the BBC showed a programme about trainee pylon maintenance workers as part of their "Real Men" series. More information is on the BBC's website. If you have a BBC Redux account you can download it.

I am not aware that any of the other documentaries can be obtained any longer, but would always be pleased to hear if they are available.

Anthony Dunford writes...

Will the Society's badge be sufficient to show to the police, if stopped by them for taking photos of pylons? I am worried that people might think I am a terrorist.

You should see this guide to photographers' rights, and this government document for prohibited locations.

Membership probably won't help as we don't vet our members for extremist tendencies!

William writes...

I regularly commute along a route which has a lot of pylons. I'd like to figure out the paths of the lines and understand how much power they carry. The OS maps show lines and pylons but it is very difficult to get a wide picture. Are there maps showing this information?

There are privately held maps by the National Grid and other transmission companies, these usually just show the most significant pylons along a route, in a blob with the pylon's ID number. It's very rare to be able to access those as they are not for public release. These also do not show every tower, nor do they necessarily state the design or voltage carried.

More generally what I (and others) would do is to look at something like Google Maps - using aerial views and streetview to get a look at the towers, one by one, and trace a route that way.

If we can get a good enough photo to ID the pylon design then we can hazard a guess at what voltage it's carrying (as certain designs can only carry certain voltages). If it's a tower which can carry multiple voltages (e.g. 275kV or 400kV) then looking at the insulator string length can help to identify what it is carrying - but as pylons can be overspec'd or strung for higher voltages in anticipation of upgrades, it can only ever be a guess unless it's a line of which one of our members has personal working knowledge.

Why not post a photo or two to our members' messageboard - someone should be able to help you try to find out what they are carrying.

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