Inferno fear as plans come to light for wood chip mountain in River Road, Barking

Businesses are protesting against plans to store wood chippings by the Dagenham Market site, claiming it would be a major fire hazard.

Logistics company Agen Biomass has applied for permission to erect a wood chip storage enclosure on the site of the former Barking power station in River Road, which sits next to the area used for the market every Sunday.

The mounds of chippings – around 6,000 tonnes at any one time – will be regularly shipped from the wharf, according to the company.

Charfleets, which runs the market, Bullman Marine Supplies and Containers and some other businesses in the area have objected to the plans.

They say the woodchippings would be a serious fire risk and could lead to a large amount of dust in the air.

But Agen Biomass say there will be plenty of measures in place to prevent fire, including 24-hour security to keep vandals from reaching the wood. It also claimed the material was dust free.

On March 9, less than a month after the plans were put to Barking and Dagenham Council, firefighters spent 24 hours battling a blaze after 100 tonnes of wood was found alight in a yard in River Road.

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It followed another fire on the same site last October.

Frank Nash, a director at Charfleets, says there have been other similar fires in the past.

“It’s quite common for big piles of woodchippings or other material for recycling to catch on fire – there was a huge one in Tilbury recently,” he said

“If a fire was to break out next to the market a lot of people’s lives could be at risk. It could also affect the businesses nearby.

“We also fear there will be lots of dust floating around.”

Bob Osborne, vice-chairman of the Creekmouth Business Forum, said he has spoken to a number of businesses who are unhappy with the plans.

He added: “Wood like that can spontaneously combust – particularly when it’s humid – or it can be set alight by vandals. The fires can take hours to put out.”

Paul Lupson, director of Agen Biomass, strongly refutes both the fire and dust claims: “We have gone through all the right channels. The plans have been supported by the London Fire Brigade and the Port of London Authority. There will be 24-hour security, fencing and we’ll also have water bowers on site.

“This is a fantastic project for the borough which will cut the amount of lorries being used and provide around 18 jobs.”

Businesses and individuals had until last Friday to object.

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said this week: “The London Fire Brigade has been consulted on adequate access and water supply to the site and has raised no objection.”