Herne Hill fire: Resident concerns and development plans for waste station blaze site

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One resident of the Lambeth neighbourhood said he would not want to live in houses nearest the plant due to concerns about dust, noise and lorries.

A south London waste transfer station at which a fire raged in the early hours of Friday (September 8) has caused consternation among residents for some time, LondonWorld has been told.

The plant, which is located on Shakespeare Road, not far from Brixton in Herne Hill, caught alight at around 2am, with part of the building collapsing due to the flames.

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Around 100 firefighters and 15 fire engines tackled the blaze, with the London Fire Brigade called at 2.09am. It was under control just after 7am.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and the LFB said it was continuing to try and fully extinguish it on the morning of September 12, four days after it had begun.

When LondonWorld attended the site, at around 10.30am on Friday, smoke was continuing to pour from the top of the building, with a strong smell of plastic in the air.

One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was the first to call the emergency services. She told LondonWorld she heard a cracking noise from the far side of the site, away from Shakespeare Road, at around 2am. Having looked out of her window twice, she said it was on the third time she saw flames emerging.

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Smoke was continuing to come out of the top of the building in Herne Hill into late morning on September 8. Credit: Ben Lynch.Smoke was continuing to come out of the top of the building in Herne Hill into late morning on September 8. Credit: Ben Lynch.
Smoke was continuing to come out of the top of the building in Herne Hill into late morning on September 8. Credit: Ben Lynch. | Ben Lynch

“I was worried the flames would spread”, she said, with particular concern about trees lining the site which could fall on nearby homes.

After calling the London Fire Brigade, she said the crews were “really quick” in attending and getting the flames under control.

As she watched the brigade continue to douse the building in water late-morning, she added: “I’m telling you now, that fire was outside the back.”

‘I wouldn’t want to live in these houses’

Another nearby resident, Stephen, told LondonWorld there have been concerns about the site for some time.

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According to the South London Press, the plant in its current guise was opened by Norris in 2019, though it had already been used to process waste for around a decade.

The publication reported in 2021 that residents living on Shakespeare Road were regularly impacted by the dust, noise and the lorries driving into the facility, with one describing the experience for locals as “horrendous”.

A spokesperson for Norris said the firm had not been a tenant at the site for around eight months, and that the current occupier has “nothing to do with Norris whatsoever”.

The current tenant, Urbin London Limited, has been approached for comment.

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One local resident said the London Fire Brigade was “really quick” to attend the site after being contacted. Credit: London Fire Brigade.One local resident said the London Fire Brigade was “really quick” to attend the site after being contacted. Credit: London Fire Brigade.
One local resident said the London Fire Brigade was “really quick” to attend the site after being contacted. Credit: London Fire Brigade. | London Fire Brigade

Developer Urban & Provincial states on its website that it became the freeholder in 2017, at which point it was still being used by Norris, with a proposal to knock down the existing buildings and develop 218 homes.

According to local reports, a 2021 planning application was refused as it involved moving the waste sation to West Norwood, resulting in significant local opposition.

Permission has however since been granted for the development dependent on the facility being relocated elsewhere in Lambeth, a council spokesperson said.

Stephen said he is “concerned” about the plant’s current location due to it being “heavily residential around here”.

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“I don’t think Lambeth Council takes it seriously,” he said, adding: “I wouldn’t want to live in these houses. It’s not the only recycling site that’s bang in the middle of a residential [area].”

Two other residents LondonWorld spoke to agreed with Stephen, saying there had been ongoing worries about the waste station being so close to a large number of homes.

Around 100 firefighters and 15 fire engines tackled the blaze, with the London Fire Brigade called at 2.09am. Credit: Ben Lynch.Around 100 firefighters and 15 fire engines tackled the blaze, with the London Fire Brigade called at 2.09am. Credit: Ben Lynch.
Around 100 firefighters and 15 fire engines tackled the blaze, with the London Fire Brigade called at 2.09am. Credit: Ben Lynch. | Ben Lynch

A Lambeth Council spokesperson said: “The fire was on a privately owned site which was in use as a waste transfer facility. The site benefits from planning permission for 218 new homes subject to the reprovision of the waste handling capacity elsewhere in Lambeth.”

An Urban & Provincial spokesperson said: “We are devastated by the recent fire at Shakespeare Road and want to thank the LFB for their continued efforts. Until the investigation concludes it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

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Station Commander Paul Sadler, who was at the scene, said: “Crews worked incredibly hard at the fire on Shakespeare Road. It was a protracted incident, with crews remaining at the scene throughout the night and into the morning.

“We know it was a warm night, but the fire was producing large amounts of smoke and those in the local area were urged to keep their windows and doors closed where possible whilst crews worked to bring it under control.

“People were asked to avoid the area due to road closures in place.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said crews are continuing to investigate whether the blaze was accidental alongside the Met Police.

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