Launders Lane: Soil analysis to determine source of underground fire ‘burning on and off for 20 years’ in east London

Launders Lane in the Summer (LFB)
Launders Lane in the Summer (LFB)

The leader of Havering council has said scientists will be conducting a soil analysis of an illegal dumping site that has been spewing out potentially toxic smoke over east London.

The underground fires in Launders Lane, Rainham have raged on-and-off for two decades but action to stop them once and for all has so far been prevented by a quagmire of bureaucracy to gain access to the site.

Residents are concerned about the reliability of air quality meters with others saying the Havering council have “failed the people miserably.”

Complex land ownership issues stem from a police raid on the site in 2011 which uncovered a trapdoor in a portable cabin leading to a “fully functional cannabis factory” made of buried shipping containers.

Havering council leader Ray Morgon said he was working with partners to try and find the best way forward.

He added: “I am pleased to report that we are lining up a company who will be going on to the land for soil sampling so we can understand what is below ground that keeps burning.

“As we have said before, this is privately owned land so are we are in the process of working with the landowner so that we can go on to the site to carry out this work.

“This will help us look further at solutions.”

It was revealed by LDRS, that current landowner DMC Services (Essex) Limited purchased the land for £440,000 in 2017.

Cllr Morgon continued: “We also continue to monitor and sample the air quality and the particulates.

“So far the levels found here have not been different from much of London, but as the weather becomes warmer, we have the right equipment in place to monitor if there are any changes.”

Retired civil servant Catherine Newton who lives just over a mile away from the source of the fires said she hoped Cllr Morgon could attend a public meeting on Thursday to hear resident’s concerns.

She said: “He may have some tough questions to answer particularly as at least one monitor seems to regularly go off line if the levels go higher. Whilst the fire brigade haven’t been called there have been complaints about the fumes and smell from Launders Lane.”

She previously told The Standard: “I suffer from nose bleeds, sore throats, coughs, a heavy feeling in my chest and a dry mouth.

“My friend said she took her black dog for a walk this week and by the time she came home it was covered in white ash.”

London Fire Brigade’s Borough Commander for Havering, Paul McClenaghan, said his crews have attended more than 70 fires at the site since 2018.

He said: “The fires are distressing for the local community and are putting firefighters at unnecessary risk.”

A public meeting between residents and council representatives will be held on Thursday at Harris Academy.

Residents can see the latest readings online at

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