Well over 200 angry local residents from Rainham took part in a meeting at the La Salette Social Club on the evening of Thursday 28 July. Their anger was focussed on the landowner of Arnolds Field, Launders Lane Rainham and also on Havering Council for 14 years of inaction to prevent the underground fires on the former landfill site.
Over the past four years Labour MP Jon Cruddas and our recently elected Beam Park Councillors, Trevor McKeever and Matt Stanton pressed Havering Council to take enforcement action against the landowner to properly deal with source of the fires. Despite the repeated demands, the previous Conservative administration of the Council failed to act. Jon has also called on the Council to conduct regular air quality monitoring close to Arnolds Field to assess any potential harmful effects from the smoke from the increasingly frequent fires. In addition to these environmental harms Jon is urging the Council and Environment Agency to carry out testing of water quality in local watercourses as the water from extinguishing the blazes will leach through the landfill materials and enter the water table.
With the change of political control of Havering the Labour MP wrote to the Council’s Chief Executive to demand a meeting with the Council, London Fire Brigade and the landowner to produce an action plan to protect local residents.This has been set up for 1 August.
Jon Cruddas said that the planning agent for the landowner wrote to him three weeks ago with ideas for how Arnolds Field might be developed. However, Jon responded that this misses the point – no development can take place until the source of the fires is comprehensively remediated. The landowner has legal responsibilities and I want Havering to take urgent action to enforce these.
Cllr Trevor McKeever, a former fire fighter with the LFB now a newly elected Labour Councillor recalled being called out to numerous fires on Arnolds Field, said “ Over the last five or so years I have been trying to extract information from Havering Council, it’s been like pulling teeth, very little information has been passed over, for the Council Officer in charge of Launders lane to say he never knew anything about this situation is disingenuous at the very least. There seems to be more questions than answers for the previous administration to answer, now we have a new administration and Leader of the Council, I would hope the information required to resolve this is forthcoming.”
Fellow Beam Park ward Labour Councillor Matt Stanton said “This complicated situation has not been helped by the inaction of the last Conservative administration, that ignored the overlapping responsibilities of Council, Environment Agency and landowner. For uninformed people to make populist claims that this can be solved in some carve-up with the landowner is irresponsible and will end very badly if it is allowed to happen.”