FRESH fears over the impact of a controversial giant biomass plant planned for Southampton have been reignited following a massive woodchip blaze at the city's docks.

A stench of putrid fumes is today hanging over the Millbrook area where neighbours fear Helius' proposals for a £300m wood-fuelled plant on their doorsteps will increase risks of repeated fires and pollution.

It comes as private fire crews continue tackling the aftermath of the smouldering dockside fire which is likely to continue burning until the end of the week.

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They stress no toxic materials are in the pile but residents are resolutely keeping their doors and windows shut to block out the acrid smell.

The fire broke out in a woodchip pile in King George V Graving Dock at 6pm on Tuesday night.

The 20ft flames and thick clouds of billowing smoke could be seen as far away from Shirley Towers.

Teams from Solent Stevedores used tugs fitted with waterjets to fight the flames before moving in four excavators and a huge crane and clam grab to separate the red hot materials.

Crews from Redbridge fire station were on standby and put out some burning debris blown towards a nearby scrap pile by high winds.

No-one was injured and the blaze was contained to the 100m x 150m pile which is owned and managed by Eco Sustainable Solutions Limited.

But neighbours and local councillors say the blaze - which follows a scrap metal fire two years ago - indicates how flammable wood chips fuelling biomass burners are.

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Helius has yet to submit a formal application for the 100-mega-watt (MW) site but claims it will be capable of producing enough energy to power 200,000 homes and save the equivalent of 470,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.

Christopher Wray, 58, from Millbrook Road West, who smelt burning from his house said: “They are already campaigning against the biomass burner which could make things worse.

“I've got asthma and thrombosis as it is.”

Freemantle ward councillor Jeremy Moulton said: “My concern is the wood kept at the biomass site.

“Even if a fire is managed and controlled it will have an affect on the area.”

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Millbrook ward councillor Steve Galton, also a member of Southampton No Biomass group, said: “This is very similar to our fears about biomass.

“People say the fumes from this are just a smell but this is an area that has bad air quality as it is.”

Ian Jacobs, managing director of Solent Stevedores, put the fire down to suspected self-combustion and reassured residents no known harmful or noxious substances were contained in the pile.

Helius refused to comment on the blaze.